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Equipment Discussions >> Refractors

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watcher
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 11/21/07

Loc: St. Louis, MO
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: Scott Beith]
      #5736342 - 03/16/13 01:47 PM

still, for a beginner, the difference between 3 to 4 hundred dollars, and 60 for the achro might make it a good choice. Of course the ED is a better scope, but until you know whether or not astronomy is gonna stick, the less you can spend for descent equipment, the better. Hey, you may end up buying Taks,Televues, and Tecs, But even then it doesnt hurt to have a 60 dollar OTA that you can let the nieces and nephews slobber all over.

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sunnysky
journeyman


Reged: 03/13/13

Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: Scott Beith]
      #5736381 - 03/16/13 02:11 PM

Joe, thank you for the link. Wow, that is a great price. Is the Celestron 102mm f/10 the same as the Skywatcher 102mm f/10, just re-branded? I've heard this happens a lot with the lower end range of scopes. I'm wondering why there is such a large price difference (even not considering the sale price). Is quality for one better than the other? Thanks

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Mike4242
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 11/02/11

Loc: Memphis, TN
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: sunnysky]
      #5736472 - 03/16/13 02:57 PM

I think the optics are the same in that model, but the lens cell isn't quite as nice, i.e. collimatable.

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Jon Isaacs
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Reged: 06/16/04

Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: Mike4242]
      #5737100 - 03/16/13 08:09 PM

Quote:

I think the optics are the same in that model, but the lens cell isn't quite as nice, i.e. collimatable.




Is the dew shield metal or plastic? Anyone know?

The old CR-4's, the predecessor to these scopes, did not have a collimatable cell.

Jon


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KWB
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Reged: 09/30/06

Loc: Westminster,Co Elev.5400 feet
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5737342 - 03/16/13 09:19 PM

Quote:

Quote:

I think the optics are the same in that model, but the lens cell isn't quite as nice, i.e. collimatable.




Is the dew shield metal or plastic? Anyone know?

The old CR-4's, the predecessor to these scopes, did not have a collimatable cell.

Jon



Yep. Neither did the C102HD(with metal dewshield) that I owned for almost 10 years have one.


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doug mc
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Reged: 03/21/09

Loc: Tamborine Mountain Australia
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: KWB]
      #5737640 - 03/16/13 11:23 PM

If you are staying with a 102 acro a collimateble cell is also a better choice. The fixed cell acros are not always collimated well

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watcher
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 11/21/07

Loc: St. Louis, MO
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: sunnysky]
      #5737824 - 03/17/13 12:42 AM

Quote:

Joe, thank you for the link. Wow, that is a great price. Is the Celestron 102mm f/10 the same as the Skywatcher 102mm f/10, just re-branded? I've heard this happens a lot with the lower end range of scopes. I'm wondering why there is such a large price difference (even not considering the sale price). Is quality for one better than the other? Thanks




this is a discontinued scope. it was made to a very low price point, as far as I know, just for COSTCO. It originally sold with an entry level GT computerized mount for, like 200 bucks. The optics are the same as the Skywatcher and other Celestron, but the tube is a bit more "toy" like. The dew shield is plastic, and the focuser will need to be cleaned and re-greased with a better grease. If absolutely necessary, it can be shimmed to collimate it, but they have been consistently pretty close from everything I've seen. All in all, it should give you a good representation of what can be seen with a 4 inch refractor for a minimal investment. Here's a recent thread from someone who just got one.


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FirstSightModerator
Duke of Deneb
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Reged: 12/26/05

Loc: Raleigh, NC
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: watcher]
      #5738190 - 03/17/13 08:47 AM

I'm going to be a curmudgeon here and frankly say that the "best refractor for a "newcomer" to astronomy...is an 8" or 10" reflector. Let the refractor be your SECOND scope purchase, after you have some more experience observing and time checking out other people's refractors to get a better idea of what kind of refractor is the best complement to your light bucket. A reflector with capable aperture in the 10" range and a good refractor make an ideally complementary combination that flexibly gives you optimum access to the night sky, both in terms of variety and best views of objects, and in terms of personal practicality and convenience.

DON'T GET ME WRONG: I own a Televue NP-101 that gets more total observing usage overall than my own 12" reflector light-bucket. I also own a 90mm WO Megrez refractor. But I was able to make MUCH wiser, better choices having the reflector in-hand first for awhile, and not frustratingly trying to expect more of 4" aperture than it's capable of delivering. Instead, I got them for what they're better-suited than the light-bucket: pinpoint stars (or, in the case of fast rich-field refractors, panoramic wide views), grab n'go capability, etc.

ANOTHER ISSUE WITH A REFRACTOR: which refractor is only half of the requisite key decisions: you also have to make a good choice of tripod and mount. An insufficiently wise or informed choice here can frustrate realization of even the best choice in refractors.

Edited by FirstSight (03/17/13 01:35 PM)


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chaoscosmos
sage
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Reged: 01/26/13

Loc: Mission Viejo CA
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: FirstSight]
      #5740033 - 03/18/13 03:04 AM

Alternative view- If you can scrape up $2000 or so you can find a top notch wide field 100mm apochromat used, that will have no color correction issues. Once you use it you won't want anything less. If you don't get interested in observing, sell it for what you bought it for. I don't know that I'd do the large reflector first, because depending on your situation, it can be more work to get it out and use it. With a 4 inch short tube refractor, as Jon says, you just pick up the whole rig and walk out the door with it and you're set.

At any rate, there are lots of choices if you do your homework, to get something of better quality used that will still hold its value if you decide you're not into it. The names Televue and Takahashi, among others, are like magnets on the used market. If you manage to get a good deal on one there will be 5 other people that want it, so if you need to sell it again, you won't have any problem. Cheap new stuff immediately depreciates.

Edited by chaoscosmos (03/18/13 03:12 AM)


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Jon Isaacs
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Reged: 06/16/04

Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: chaoscosmos]
      #5740175 - 03/18/13 07:22 AM

Quote:


Alternative view- If you can scrape up $2000 or so you can find a top notch wide field 100mm apochromat used, that will have no color correction issues. Once you use it you won't want anything less.




Certainly a scope like the TV-101 or the TV NP-101 can provide wonderful views with no false color to get in the way. But 4 inches is 4 inches and a $500 shipped to your door Dobsonian will be a better all around performer... Sad but true. I paid $2000 for a second hand NP-101, $240 for a second hand generic GSO 10 inch Dobsonian. When I want the good planetary views, when I want to split the tightest double stars.. I invariable choose the 10 inch if not something larger.

And too, I have two 4 inch refractors, the NP-101 and an Orion 100mm F/6 achromat. There is no doubt that the NP-101 has the Orion beat in every optical aspect but I still enjoy the Orion and frequently use it because it is lighter, more compact and I have invested my own time and energy in making it a better scope than it was when I got it.

Jon


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chaoscosmos
sage
*****

Reged: 01/26/13

Loc: Mission Viejo CA
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5740407 - 03/18/13 10:27 AM

You could also start out with a 60mm Celestron or whatever is economical in that size these days. That's the size scope innumerable amateur astronomers have started with. Stick it on a camera tripod and walk out the door carrying it in one hand. Talk about compact, that's compact, and especially if you haven't looked through anything else, perfectly capable of stirring an interest in astronomy.

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jrbarnett
Eyepiece Hooligan
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Reged: 02/28/06

Loc: Petaluma, CA
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: sunnysky]
      #5740890 - 03/18/13 03:00 PM

Hi and welcome.

Before we get to refractor recommendations, given that you're a self-described newcomer, why a refractor at all? What factors caused you to rule out other designs?

Per inch of aperture, refractors are the most expensive of all designs. The two things that matter most for seeing the kinds of things you say you want to see are the size and quality of the objective.

Typically refractors (even mass-produced achromats) do well on the quality front these days, but what they don't give you is the other important thing - aperture.

For your requirements (i.e., "In essence I'm looking for a reasonably priced scope that can offer a mixed bag of capabilities to a beginner.") an 8" f/6 Dobsonian seems to a much better fit, unless there's something about Dobsonians that puts you off.

Refractors are my favorites, but typically I don't recommend refractors as a first (or for that matter, only) scope. I think the moderate aperture, moderate focal ratio Dobs does everything a beginner wants to do better than any of the affordable refractors.

There are lots of reasons folks shy away from Dobsonians. Some fear having to collimate the optics. Others fear that the instrument will be to large and heavy to store or transport conveniently. Others want a driven, tracking mount and perceive it too difficult or costly to achieve with a Dobsonian. Still others fear that they will need an expensive coma corrector and fancy wide field eyepieces designed for fast scope.

The 8" f/6 Dobsonian is cheap, tolerant on the collimation front, not very heavy, fairly easy to move around, not so fast as to need anything fancier than Plossls on the eyepiece front and includes the "best refractor for a newcomer" at no additional cost! That is, the finder scope mounted to the Dobsonian tube assembly.

I'm not saying you're wrong about leaning toward a refractor as a first scope, but in the interest of the forum doing what it is supposed to do, want to make sure you've thought of alternatives and the pros and cons of each.

Incidentally of the two scopes you list, the f/10 version is far more versatile. The f/5 will be optimal only for low power, wide fields of view, and will suffer lots of false color, particularly as magnification increases. You can get the Celestron version of that 4" f/10 tube (same optics maker - Synta in China) right now for $59 bare or a little more with some accessories (finder, diagonal, eyepieces, etc.). You'd only need a suitable mount for it.

Regards,

Jim


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Crow Haven
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 01/09/09

Loc: Oregon USA
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: jrbarnett]
      #5741467 - 03/18/13 07:13 PM

+1
Everything that Jim said!

I have a variety of scopes and enjoy all designs. They all have their quirks, pros and cons. I also have the mentioned 4" Celestron 102GT achro and it performs really well, and for $59 this ota is a steal! It would be a great refractor to start with if you must have a refractor...

For the most WoW though, in globular clusters and dimmer DSOs, even planetary detail, I'd say go with the 8" dob. It's very portable, not heavy, and not hard to maintain. Don't be spooked by collimation, it's not mystical nor hard in spite of what you may have heard.
---Maya


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Paul Hyndman
sage


Reged: 07/13/04

Loc: Connecticut Shoreline USA
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: FirstSight]
      #5741493 - 03/18/13 07:24 PM

Quote:

I'm going to be a curmudgeon here and frankly say that the "best refractor for a "newcomer" to astronomy...is an 8" or 10" reflector. Let the refractor be your SECOND scope purchase...




Amen!

As an old far... er, curmudgeon myself (having owned/made many, many scopes over the past 50+ years), I too suggest you give a dob-mounted 'newt further consideration. Lots of bang for the buck. and relatively easy to master.


Paul


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chaoscosmos
sage
*****

Reged: 01/26/13

Loc: Mission Viejo CA
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: Paul Hyndman]
      #5741963 - 03/18/13 10:36 PM

I think any scope you pick up is going to probably be the right one if you get out and use it. For me, still being a relative beginner after doing some astronomy many moons ago, my initial intention was to get a 12" Dob, because I remember being blown away by the views I saw through some people's 10 and 13 inch Coulters about 25 years ago. But as I looked around Cloudy Nights I noticed that refractors were still very popular, and it made sense, since I didn't know if I'd stick with it, to get something relatively small that I wouldn't have to store in the garage, with the fear it would just take up space and collect dust.

Beyond that, what's evolved in my thinking is that I'd rather start out closer to earth and see what the view is with less power and learn/relearn the sky and Constellations and enjoy that before jumping to the instant gratification of a view of the Orion Nebula with a big reflector. Believe me, I'm tempted to get a Dob now, but I've only scratched the surface at this point with what can be done with a 4 inch refractor. Looking at a star cluster or double star, or the color and brightness of a single star are things as beautiful to me as anything else that can be seen in the sky, and a small high quality refractor does that great.

In any case, you have the opportunity for a great adventure... with whatever scope you get.


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sunnysky
journeyman


Reged: 03/13/13

Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: chaoscosmos]
      #5742211 - 03/19/13 02:37 AM

Thanks a lot for the responses.

I guess why I am leaning towards a refractor is for a few reasons that I've identified since beginning my pursuit of a telescope.

(1) Size. I live in an apartment and a Dobsonian would simply be too big and cumbersome to store, use and travel with. I want a scope I can use close to home but also throw in the car and drive to a dark spot and setup quickly. The Dobs would be stretching the limit of my desire for portability.
(2) Ease of use... simple maintenance, no collimation, short cool down time, simple use of an alt-az mount.
(3) From what I've been told, the mirrors in lower price range Newtownians can degrade after a few years as the coatings begin to oxidize.

These are some of the reasons. Given everything I've read and discussed with people, "my gut" is leaning towards a 80mm-100mm refractor on an alt-az manual mount. As a starter scope. There are undoubtedly advantages to the Dobs and other designs but the factors of size and portability have me leaning towards getting into the hobby with a refractor. Those are my thoughts... I could be totaly off base too


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Kunama
professor emeritus


Reged: 10/22/12

Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: sunnysky]
      #5742283 - 03/19/13 04:18 AM

Sounds to me like a refractor is the best way for you to go, I would not go for an 80mm as my only scope, you would be disappointed in what it shows you.
The early advice of a 100mm f9 with 3 eyepieces on an alt az mount is the ultimate in portability while still giving reasonable views. I am using a 120mm F 7.5 and about to get an Alt Az mount for it, I usually move it outside before dinner and its cooled and ready for viewing straight after dinner.
Post pics when you find one.

Sounds like a dob won't fit into your lifestyle.


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lcaldero
sage
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Reged: 04/07/11

Loc: Albuquerque, NM
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer new [Re: Kunama]
      #5742408 - 03/19/13 08:15 AM

As I said in my earlier post, only you can know what type telescope will work for you. As someone who started with refractors, I recommend starting with a 4 inch. Here are the mistakes I made: didn't buy a system, had to put the pieces together, didn't know enough to choose the right mount and didn't ask for help. What I did right was to buy good telescopes and eyepieces. I'd stay away from the super cheap achromatic on sale unless it comes with the accessories you need to start (diagonal, finder and rings).

Do you have binoculars? Binos are great on their own, and I also use mine to help find things in my light polluted backyard in tandem with the telescope. You don't have to spend a fortune on Binos.

Oh, I recently looked through an Orion 127 mak and thought 'why have I been spending so much on refractors?' All telescope types have their pluses and minuses. It's like the old joke about product development: you can have it good, you can have it cheap, you can have it fast, but you can't have all three. Pick two. With telescopes the variables are cost, bulk, cool down, and perhaps tinkering.

Good luck and clear skies,
Laura


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nicknacknock
professor emeritus
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Reged: 02/20/12

Loc: In a galaxy far far away...
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer [Re: Kunama]
      #5742411 - 03/19/13 08:19 AM

+1 on what Jim said as well!!!

A refractor also needs a capable mount and tripod to get the most use out of it, so if you consider space, a 8" Dobsonian will probably take up the same space, both in your apartment and car. Very easy to set up, collimation does not require the sacrifice of goats / hens to succeed. And mirrors last for a long time if you treat them with respect. Furthermore, the addition of a cooling fan at the base of the dob will cut down on required cooling time.

I too love refractors but I am switching to a Dob as I want to see more detail. Yes, I do enjoy chasing a faint fuzzy to the limit of a 4" refractor (or 3.5" in my case now as my SV102ED has found a new home), but at some point you may reach the limits of a 4" refractor and ask for more.

However, it's a buyer's market. If you want to start with a refractor and there is some serious planetary viewing there, then go for f10. If planetary will play second fiddle, go for the f5 and the lovely wide vistas it offers.

Worst case scenario: You decide you want another instrument and you put your scope up for sale on CN classifieds.


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Jon Isaacs
Postmaster
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Reged: 06/16/04

Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA
Re: Best Refractor for a Newcomer [Re: sunnysky]
      #5742442 - 03/19/13 08:45 AM

Quote:

Thanks a lot for the responses.

I guess why I am leaning towards a refractor is for a few reasons that I've identified since beginning my pursuit of a telescope.

(1) Size. I live in an apartment and a Dobsonian would simply be too big and cumbersome to store, use and travel with. I want a scope I can use close to home but also throw in the car and drive to a dark spot and setup quickly. The Dobs would be stretching the limit of my desire for portability.
(2) Ease of use... simple maintenance, no collimation, short cool down time, simple use of an alt-az mount.
(3) From what I've been told, the mirrors in lower price range Newtownians can degrade after a few years as the coatings begin to oxidize.

These are some of the reasons. Given everything I've read and discussed with people, "my gut" is leaning towards a 80mm-100mm refractor on an alt-az manual mount. As a starter scope. There are undoubtedly advantages to the Dobs and other designs but the factors of size and portability have me leaning towards getting into the hobby with a refractor. Those are my thoughts... I could be totaly off base too




I agree with what Jim's comments.

I do suggest hooking up with your local club or maybe an local astronomer who can show you some scopes. I love my 4 inch apochromat, I enjoy my 4 inch achromat. But, compared to an 8 inch Dob, for most objects, they cannot compete, the planets, any faint fuzzy that fits in the field of view, these are the province of the Newtonian. There are certainly good reasons to choose and use a 4 inch refractor but some of your concerns may be over stated.

A few thoughts/experiences:

- Mirrors coating do deteriorate with time. I have mirrors with their original coatings that are 35 years old and in good condition. The coatings on my 10 inch Asian dob are about 10 years old and still in good shape. It takes more than a few years... I think there is not need to worry about your coatings.

Storage/Portability: If you store the scope assembled, a Dob takes up less space than a tripod mounted refractor. For even a refractor to take up less space than a Dob, it has to be disassembled, the tripod and mount folded up and put in a corner, the scope secured in a case. It's no long quite so portable...

Setup: Tube Dobs setup quickly... I carry the base and tube in separate trips out the back door. Takes a minute or two.

Transporting a Dob: A tube dob takes up a significant amount of space in your car, there is no getting around that. In smaller sedan, the tube fits across the backseat and generally can be fit with the base. A refractor will not take up the space.

Setup from the car... it's easy. One evening I timed myself setting up my 12.5 inch Discovery that was stuffed into a 1992 Ford Escort Hatchback. I pulled up to the site. Turned off the key, started the stop watch.. I opened the door and went into high speed mode. When the scope was sitting on it's mount with the finders in place and the chair sitting alongside, I stopped the watch and looked at the time: 41 seconds...

Cool down: It's significant with a Newtonian. Scopes can be used while cooling, it's just that they do give their best until they have cooled down. For DSOs, cool down is a non-issue, for the planets and double stars, it's a concern.

So, it might well be that an 80mm or 100mm refractor might be the best choice for you. As I said, I enjoy mine and they get a lot of eyepiece time.

But, in my view, small scopes are better suited for more experienced observers who have the skills to eek out what they offer. A trip to a star party, a club outing, a session with a local astronomer, you would have a better sense of what you are gaining, what you are giving up...

Myself, as much as I enjoy my smaller scopes, I would not want to be stuck without a larger scope that I could use, even the best 4 inch does not bust open globular clusters or show faint galaxies the way a generic 8 inch dob will.

Jon


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