By the way, I just read that review you are all talking about.since I haven't seen it since it first came out..
Regarding this initial comment made in the article:
"After the counter balance was set and everything was a go, it came down to only a few deep sky objects for us to look at. M31 and M32 were very good, not anything to get excited about but with 1 out of 5 transparency and a ton of moisture in the sky, both views were exceptional, the Phoenix was more than up to the task… We spent the remainder of the evening checking out M51 and again the double cluster in Cassiopeia, pin point stars between 180 and 300 power, the 204 performed flawlessly, what a BRUTE this scope is it was meant for bad skies or good, we were all very impressed!!!"
I also made some comments which I posted on the ISTAR forum site after that initial first light. This is what I posted on Sep 21, 2013 at 11:38pm :
Last night I had an opportunity to take my first peek at my friend James new ISTAR Phoenix 204 F/6. Here in Sacramento, some of the weather forecasts were showing a chance of rain but our best source was saying no rain till the following afternoon. Because of this, we decided it would be smart to just set up on his driveway, just in case the weather turned south on us. When I went to his place, his scope was already set up.
He was on his driveway with 3 streetlights all in sight, and a near full moon just rising. We didn't care, we are passionate astronomers and having an opportunity to just set up and look at this beast on his G11 would have been good enough even if it remained cloudy.
Fortunately, the skies cleared up and the clouds had moved away. Despite our horrible lighting conditions, we were ready to have a first light at this beautiful masterpiece.
First off, I'd like to say the 204/F6 was a perfect marriage for the G11 with an optional one foot extension pier installed. For the first time ever, the big mount looked completely matched with a big refractor mounted on it. When I got there, the scope was not balanced on the mount properly. I removed one of the counterweights and ended up with two 21 pound counter weights on the G11. I slid the scope back in its massive stock tube rings because it seemed somewhat front heavy, even with a 2" diagonal and a 41 Panoptic installed. So 41 pounds of counterweights on the G11 was the perfect weight for the big optical tube.
I noticed the Moonlight focuser was adjusted a little too light for his two inch eyepieces, so using an allen wrench, I tightened both screws under the focuser which stiffened up the focuser slightly, and the focuser then felt excellent. When the scope was pointing straight up, the big Panoptic moved like glass in and out of the draw tube. The rotating focuser was extremely fluid, very smooth and precise, exactly what you would have wanted.
With the 12" Losmandy Extension Pier on the mount, the mount was at a perfect height with the tripod legs full extended. Even when pointing straight up, it was at a perfect height for sitting for observing or just leaning forward, and when observing above the roof lines, we were able to stand comfortably. Had we been in open flat horizons, we may have needed one small step on a two step ladder I always take with me. Overall, this scope was matched perfectly to the G11.
With our mediocre skies, I was able to see Cassiopeia and moved the scope over to the double cluster in Perseus. Even with the near full moon about 30 degrees from our target, the big red giants in the double cluster were very prominent and the entire star field was picture perfect pin points. With a big smile, I told my friend Jim that the optics on this scope was excellent. Every star with the widest eyepiece possible was absolutely a perfect pinpoint. It couldn't have been a better image. I panned around and found the ET Cluster, NGC 457. Even with the widefield 41 Pan, the large red and blue star forming the eyes of the ET cluster focuses perfectly. I put in a 14mm ES 100deg eyepiece (85x) and the cluster just jumped into view. Again, perfect pin point stars across the entire field of view, just absolutely perfect optics. This scope had been up for maybe 45 minutes before I started using it, so even in that short amount of cool down time, there were no issues of waiting for the glass to equalize or settle down. The outside temperature was about 55 degrees and despite the clouds just clearing away maybe 2 hrs earlier, there were no signs of puffy stars.
Again, the G11 held the scope perfectly. There was no hint of vibration or settling down time when touching the focuser, nothing, the mount was holding the big scope rock steady. My estimation was that with the 11" D mounting plate, the Massive Istar Tube rings, 2" diagonal and 2" eyepieces, this scope sits on the mount at about 50 to 52 pounds fully loaded. I didn't mount the scope, so at the time I didn't know how heavy it was to hold, but it seems to sit on the mount at about the same weight as my C11 with a 4" F/6 refractor piggy backed on top of my mount, with two 11" DC11 mounting plates on top and bottom of my Aluminum tube C11 with a 2" diagonal and 2" eyepieces. This is the scope the G11 was designed to support, hence the name "G11" for a C11. To me, this mount was also, designed to hold this beautiful Phoenix 204 F/6.
Back to observing, straight above us, I noticed Cygnus, so I put back in the 41 Pan and pointed the scope straight up at M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. The big glass of the scope made the object jump out in the background. We put in the ES14 eyepiece again, and a deep sky filter, and despite the full moon with 3 streetlights in our face, the beautiful dumbbell shape stood out for us to observe. I estimated, with the scope pointing at the Zenith, when using the G11 with the one foot pier extension, the eyepiece height was between 36" to 42", a very comfortable height for sitting in an adjustable chair or just leaning over. Panning around in Cygnus, huge amount of stars were obvious, despite us not being able to make out the Milky Way at all with no optics. Stars again were beautiful. I moved over to Alberio in Cygnus, and the rich gold and blue stars came into view. We put in the 14mm ES100 deg eyepiece again and the stars focused beautifully. I panned around the entire field of view to check the focus over the entire field and the stars remained in sharp focuser everywhere in the eyepiece. There were no signs of spherical aberration anywhere in the field of view. This lens system was absolutely perfect for pin point starts over the entire field of view.
I wanted to take a look at the double double in Lyra, to see if I could split the double double but thin clouds started to moving in.
I tried to point the scope at M81/M82, but one of the streetlights was right below where these galaxies were located, and a big blast of glare just filled up the eyepiece, so I didn’t bother. I moved the scope back over to the east and was just able to make out the great square of Pegasus, so I found M31, M110 and M32 instead even with the moon so bright and nearby. We put in a 9mm ES100mm eyepiece (133x) and M110 and M32 were much more obvious and the star fields around both galaxies as before, were perfect pin points of light. The galaxies were beautiful, the big IStar Phoenix 204 F/6 was laughing at the bright street lights and near full moon skies, and showing off how spectacular its optics were.
In two weeks from now, weather permitting, we will be taking this scope out, along with my C11, and looking to catch our first views of Comet ISON.
Since clouds started to roll in around midnight, we called it a night. Two of us took the scope off the mount, me and Jim, the proud owner of this beautiful scope. He wanted to lift it off himself, but I said there's no reason for that since there were several of us there to observe the first light from the scope.
So I held onto the back of the scope, he swung off the tube rings and he lifted the front of the scope over the rings and held the scope in his arms smiling. His said the scope was heavy, so I reached for it and held it myself. Wow, I had no idea this scope was that heavy. Much heavier than I thought, not because 42 or so pounds is heavy, but because its a very awkward 42 pounds to hold, since there are no handles on this scope when its removed from the tube rings.
To me, it’s completely manageable by one person only, if you consider yourself a healthy average strength male but you have to be extremely careful and take your time in setting it up. Set your tripod legs to as low as possible to mount it. Put your counterweights on first, install the tube rings on the mount, then lift the scope onto the rings and swing over one ring at a time. Doing it this way, on this type of mount, is completely manageable. Then slowly extend each tripod leg a few inches at a time till you get it set up at its maximum height.
If you’re the type of person that always feels you have to rush, forget it, get something smaller and lighter. But if you value your observing, and make it a passion in your life, and don’t feel you have to rush home for “any reason” when your ready to tear down your gear, and enjoy setting up and taking down your gear nearly as much as using it, the extra effort to set up a large refractor like this is well worth it.
This scope is a deep space scope. It should pull in deep space objects comparable to a 10” SCT at least, but with much more pleasing high definition views.
Nevertheless, since Jim and myself always seem to observe together, I mentioned to him there's really no reason to try and set this up by himself and risk either injuring his back, or risk dropping the scope. So we decided its best mount the scope and take it off the mount together.
To me, it’s as heavy as his Meade 12" OTA, but much more awkward to lift and mount. My C14 is much heavier and I prefer to mount my OTA on my G11 by myself, but again, I lift it and rest it on my Robin Cassidy saddle on my G11, something I’ve been doing for 15 years now, but the C14 has handles everywhere making it much easier to mount than the 204 f/6 OTA.
Compared to my 180mm F/6 APM refractor which weighs in at 26 pounds, my 180 is a featherweight. It’s got a sliding dew shield so it’s very compact to transport and set up and I keep my tube rings installed on my scope with a handle on top of the scope which makes mounting it very easy.
Nevertheless, this Phoenix 204 F/6 is absolutely worth the extra effort it takes to mount, because it’s just a magnificent optical instrument. A sliding or removable dew shield option would help make this much more transportable even in a small compact car. A binoview ready option would be nice also, making it a true comet hunter for sweeping the night skies with two eyes.
Founder of the Sacramento Valley Active Astronomers Group
That was my first light report of that scope, very accurately posted in the ISTAR forum for those members to read. Nowhere did I take the magnification up to 180x to 300x. But thats me. Jim loves pushing his optics and loves to over extend just about everything he looks at, just because its fun to really crank up the power well beyond the threshold of practically. Thats one of the fun things about observing with him. He throws out logic and just has fun. He doesn't care about what he should or shouldn't do based on practically and logic, he just uses every eyepiece, filter and barlow he has and sometimes comes up with some pretty facinating results.
The second report, I wrote on it was the following, written on Oct 18, 2013 at 6:28am, again posted in the ISTAR forum. This seems to coincide with his Night 2 and night 3 review, since I had my C14 out that night, which you also see in the photos. I don’t take my C14 out very often.
I have had a few nights using my friends new PHOENIX WFT 204-6, along with using my C14 and 180mm APM refractor. The Big refractor seems to perform very well, it continues to impress me. Optically, it really is a complement to our group when we have other scopes out with us. The large clear aperture is excellent for large open views of deep sky and large or multiple objects side by side. The scope is very easy to use and reminds me of a large dobsonian, in how it’s so easy to scan any part of the sky to locate objects. This is a huge plus for people with none GoTo mounts who have some trouble locating objects in longer focal length scopes. We tried to stay out to locate the 3 comets in the sky currently, Lovejoy, Eckne and ISON, but during the last new moon, the weather caught us off guard and it was just too cold for us on that one particular Saturday night to stay up till sunrise. We will be trying it again next weekend, being ready for the cold this time.
Its definitely not a bright object telescope. The intense deep purple that comes off of objects like Venus and Jupiter will have you turning away from them. This is no surprise, since this is truly a low to mid power wide field scope. Aside from these two planets so far, the optics have been spectacular.
Under darker skies, objects like the Pleiades just sparkles and shows more nebulosity than I’ve ever seen in a refractor, being able to capture the entire object in one field of view. Andromeda is just dazzling with a 41 Panoptic, the two satellite galaxies, M32 and M110 are nearly as spectacular beside M31, and M31 itself. I can go on and on about how objects look, but the point is, if someone really wants a large refractor, this one would be tough to beat. I did notice that on stars brighter than about mag 2, the deep violet color becomes obvious. Despite that, the scope does do an excellent job at focusing the stars to tiny perfect dots of light, or round perfect balls, depending on the size of the star.
We didn't get to look at the planet Uranus or Neptune during our last outing. I found them with my C14, but I think because of the size of these planets, and other distractions around us during that particular night, we didn't have time to locate them in the big refractor. I didn't personally spend much time hunting for objects in the refractor, but instead just walked over to it and took a peek in the eyepiece once James had located something. I was involved in locating dimmer deep sky objects with my own scope, and let him do his thing with his own scope.
I will say though, that I think the PHOENIX WFT 204-6 can use more light baffling. This won't be an issue at all in dark sites with no low level lighting nearby, but where we were at, there was a building about a block away, and though there were no lights shining on us directly, some stray light was entering the tube until the scope was pointed in a different direction completely. My APM 180 F6, does not have this issue at all, but it has a huge number of light baffles in the tube by comparison. My C14 does not have this issue also. It’s just something to mention, and be aware of, if your observing with low level lighting nearby.
We are moving to a new dark site location in two weeks, that has absolutely no lights visible anywhere, so this won’t be an issue to us from this point on.
The scope doesn't seem to be bad at higher power on dim galaxies and planetary nebulas also. It seems to hit its ceiling at about 150x to 175x, still, this is way above what most would even consider using this scope at. Most of my observing, with most of my scopes, is below this anyways. With the exception of really getting on planets, for example when observing the planet Uranus this last time out, I was up in the 430x to 550x range on my C14, to pull in the 15th magnitude moons of the planet. We haven't tried the 204 on splitting tight double also yet.
Honestly, I would say if anyone ever wanted to consider a large scope like the PHOENIX WFT 204-6, by all means, don't hesitate to get one, if you can handle lifting the weight and your mount can support it. It’s a dream scope that nothing else in its class can compete with, for the price, and for its excellent optics.
Attached are two photos I took of our scopes. One is the 204-6 by itself on a Losmandy G11 with a 1 foot extension pier, the other is beside my C14.
I'll report back in a few weeks after we locate the 3 comets in the sky we currently have.
....Ralph in Sacramento
His Night 3 comments were actually at a new site I found. We didn't see any comets that particular night. I found them myself first, by myself on November 1st, and wrote this article on finding all for in one night:
After that night I wrote my comet article from, we all went out several times and located the comets again and again and again.
There you go. Compile your own conclusions from all of this. But thats all I can add to this on going questioning.
My final commet still stands, in that the ISTAR 204 is an amazing refractor and using it the way it was designed to be used, its one of the best you can every hope to own in this size for its price. More so now more than ever, with the much lighterwhite tube 3rd generation coming out.
Yes Ralph it's true that Istar says it's maximum magnification is 51x but he also states that people are going well over that into the 300-400 magnification
range with great views. The color is as one perceives the color. The longpass makes stars pinpoints of light ,craters and mountain ranges really stand out.
Have to think a bit when I see such conflicting views. Perhaps your expecting to much from a $3500 telescope. What does APM charge for there
big 8"? It's way beyond what I can afford. De Lorme
This is interesting that "only" 51x is max in a quality large scope (CA aside). As stated prior on the 7.1" f/6 scope as more like the 8" f/6 Istar as being able to push 300x with stars as pinpoint. Globs in this 7.1" are beautifully resolved at 200x or more. Just read an observing report from early July of the owner using an 3.5mm Delos (309x) in the 7.1" f/6 refractor. CN user and Mod (Deep Sky) Dave Mitsky observed with him all night, so you might ask him about the large short quality achro views.
Still the question here was not answered as what Ralph thinks of James Edwards stellar review
Chesmont Astronomical Society - www.chesmontastro.org
Galaxy Log - http://www.youtube.c...r/GalaxyLog4565
Galaxy Log Blog - http://galaxylog.blogspot.com/
HASB - http://www.haveastellarbirthday.com
Telekit (Swayze optics) 22" F/4.5 Dob
Homemade (Parks Optics) 12.5" F/4.8 Dob
Vixen 5" f/5 reflector (new)
TMB/APM 8" f/9 Refractor”The Beast”. One great DEEP SKY achro
ES 6" f/6.5 achro. Good one
Celestron Omni XLT 102 refractor.
Celestron 10x60mm Binos
Edited by aa6ww, 15 August 2014 - 12:40 PM.