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A quick review of the iStar Phantom FCL 140-6.5

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A quick review of the

👻 iStar Phantom FCL 140-6.5 👻

Top of the line Japanese glass

Made in America



My infatuation with astronomy started as a young boy when my father took me to view Comet Hale-Bopp with a 70mm refractor of the time. Since then, refractors have come a long way. I started out with a few dobsonians before I got sucked into the near perfect image a refractor can put up. Contrast, contrast, contrast. It is a beautiful thing.



I purchased my iStar Phantom FCL 140-6.5 refractor about a year ago and I am not affiliated with iStar in anyway. This review was done in the southwest desert, and I have owned 10 different refractors in the 5 years I have been back into the hobby.




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My first impressions:

-Wow that is a big case

-Nice sized telescope

-Very light for how big the 140mm looks

-The tube rings with Losmandy and Vixen style dovetails are convenient

-The glass looks outstanding!!

-Beautiful white textured paint



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Out of the case:

The iStar stickers immediately fell off the telescope as I removed it from its case for the very first time. It does come with 3 sets of back up stickers, so this seems to be a known issue. I cleaned the tube and reapplied the stickers, but alas the iStar logos are already falling off again. The paint has a lot of texture, and I believe this to be the culprit. Heat treated stickers would be nice or if it came with etched or engraved logos.



First time out in the backyard:

-This case is very bulky. I personally would prefer a case that only fits the telescope, but I am sure some people will appreciate the option of storing accessories in the case.

-The telescope itself is very manageable. It felt light compared to my 30lb daughter I get to carry around everywhere.

-The rings and plates are very nice. I like the design a lot. Top vixen plate can be a handle or perfect for a guide scope.

-Focuser feels very smooth and snapped into focus well. The fine focus feels great, but the coarse focus was a little clumsy at times. You can feel the gearing, and it would be nice if the draw tube were longer. It extends out to 80mm.



Two initial issues with the focuser:

1- With the telescope assembled as is from iStar I was only get my 3.7, 4.7, 6, and 8mm Ethos to focus. It does not have enough back focus for the 10 and 13mm Ethos with the Tele Vue EBX-2120 2" barrel extensions. With the barrel extensions removed from the eyepieces they can come to focus in its initial setup. Unfortunately, the 17 & 21mm Ethos as well as the 31mm T5 Nagler do not have enough back focus to come to focus.

The telescope does have a removable 80mm section. Once I removed that section, I found that the focuser draw tube did not have enough room to retract all the way due to the location of the first baffle. It stopped with the draw tube protruding 44mm. So, after removing the 80mm section you will also need to remove the first baffle which easily comes out and is felted underneath. Without the 80mm section all my eyepieces except the 3.7 & 4.7mm Ethos would come to focus. You would need a draw tube extension to get the 3.7 & 4.7mm Ethos to focus in this configuration.

I do not believe a 4" draw tube extension exists without one being custom made. It might be possible to have an extension tube between the adapter and the end cap. The Explore Scientific and Tele Vue draw tube extensions are not compatible with this telescope. Ultimately ditching the 80mm removable section and getting a longer/better focuser seems to be the best bet for this telescope.


2- When I was laying on the ground trying to get the Ring Nebula centered near the zenith, I was able to rotate my Baader Clicklock diagonal in the end cap locking mechanism even when it was as tight as possible. It by no means came loose but I was able to rotate it. In this position the diagonal and eyepiece are at their heaviest, and the thought of it falling into my face crossed my mind a few times. I also wondered if in certain positions if a camera would rotate mid exposure.


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The views:

-Best views of Saturn I have ever seen, albeit Saturn was at opposition. Cassini division was obvious, and I could see a hint of the C ring. I was able to make out multiple bands on the planet, and I could see the north pole. Outstanding views!!

-Jupiter was low to the horizon, but I was graced with an Io & Ganymede transit.

-The Double Double (Epsilon 1 and 2) were fantastic and well separated at 151x.

-M2, M15, M22, M13- All stars resolved very nicely. Fantastic views!

-M57, NGC 7662, NGC 6826, NGC 7009- Great color on planetary nebulae.

-M31, M66, M65, M81, M82- Galaxies were dim but had nice hints of detail. I just need some night vision!!



Second time out back:

Jupiter- Finally the clouds have parted again!! Jupiter looked outstanding at 151x with my 6mm Ethos. I could clearly see many of Jupiter's bands and a lot of surface details. The atmospheric conditions of the evening made the features of Jupiter look soft with the 3.7mm and 4.7mm Ethos.

When I am trying to tighten the end cap to stop the diagonal from rotating; the adapter between the end cap and draw tube feels like it does not like the tension. If the end cap is not tightened to its max, you can still rotate the diagonal in the focuser. The removable section, focuser, and end cap do not feel lived in yet. It can be unassembled in 5 different places from end cap to the start of the fixed tube.

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The quest for a better focuser:

The Takahashi 128 adapter 145mmx1mm does not fit directly to the fixed telescope tube. The Takahashi FSQ-106ED adapter with 133mmx1mm threads was also a bust. Literally .5mm off. The iStar adapter between the tube and the focuser diameter is a 133.34mm Male and the Takahashi FSQ-106ED adapter is 132.76mm Female. So close!!!


Luckily Starizona, and the amazing Scott, honored the cost of the Feather Touch adapter and made a custom adapter for me. With the 80mm section removed, the custom adapter, and a 3.5" Feather Touch focuser, I finally have the refractor I have always wanted. All eyepieces can achieve focus with ease, and the entire system feels premium.


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Original factory telescope setup: 23.2lbs 33.5" long retracted

My custom setup: 24.7lbs 32.5" long retracted

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The case:

The dimensions of iStar case are 37.375" L x 13" H x 10.5" W. I ended up replacing it with Stellervue's C130L. The Stellarvue case I received measures 38.5" L x 10" H x 10" W. A 25% reduction in case volume. This case requires that you remove the upper vixen dovetail to close the case, but it is worth it due to the greater ease of mobility. The case, although soft, seems extremely durable.


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I am very slowly learning about the black hole called astrophotography. The photos you see are single frame unedited 30 second to 1 minute exposures. NGC 5139 Omega Centauri seen above.


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M81- What did I say before? This glass is outstanding!!! Perfectly round beautiful stars. I used a Losmandy G11 with an ASIAIR plus, and a ZWO 294mc pro. 


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I think Ales went the extra mile to make a telescope that can please many amateur astronomers. Affordable, excellent glass, and a well thought out ring, plate, and handle system. Mine came fully assembled and ready to go from Starizona.


If iStar offered a Feather Touch focuser upgrade, or a factory focuser with a longer draw tube, and a compact case option all my issues would be resolved. As well as better logo stickers if iStar wishes to be represented in the field.


Why do we buy a refractor? Great optics, right? My Strehl ratio is .974 and the views are outstanding!! If you have any questions about this telescope, please give Ales the chance to answer your questions and provide you with an outstanding telescope.


Cheers 🍻


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  • Rollo, Tascopro, duck2k and 10 others like this


Great review!! I agree with all your findings (except my original stickers have stayed on.) Alas, I have the first edition of this scope without the built-in removable extension so I would not be able to do the FT focuser upgrade you did.

    • Stonemeister and iseegeorgesstar like this
Jul 01 2023 02:12 PM

I disagree ABQJeff, with a really good hacksaw and a  really big tap I think we can get a FT on yours  

    • ABQJeff likes this

I disagree ABQJeff, with a really good hacksaw and a  really big tap I think we can get a FT on yours  

You better be able to saw straight! ;->

    • Stonemeister likes this

I bought the lens and build a DIY scope out of it, it is currently hosted in Heaven's Mirror Observatory in Australia.

I am extremely happy with the result I got so far, the optics is great and paired with Wiliam Optics Flat68III, I got a perfect round stars across the full frame sensor. One of the photos taken using this lens can be seen here: https://www.astrobin.../full/uuk2tp/0/


This is the scope:


    • Moravianus, Jon_Doh, StevenBellavia and 6 others like this

Congratulations and thanks for the review.  A 140mm refractor is the Goldilocks in size.  It shows almost as much as a six inch, but with less size and weight.

    • Stonemeister likes this
Jul 02 2023 01:34 PM

Maybe just me but does seem to have an Astrophysics look about it.

    • Stonemeister likes this

Absolutely gorgeous instrument! 

    • Stonemeister likes this

When I first got my 140mm Phantom I was impressed with the optics, but the focuser was kind of rough. I also found one of the small bolts rolling around inside the tube. I guess whoever assembled it didn’t check everything. Fortunately I got the bolt out of the tube and put it where it was supposed to go. I also lubed the focuser gears and worked them back and forth until they became pretty smooth. The tightener for the focuser seemed to stick every 360 degrees and I couldn’t tighten the focuser without pliers. It was either bent a little or the threads were a little off. I lubed that also and worked it until I could move it pretty well. It now works well with just my fingers. Starizona sent the scope without decals. I had to contact them a couple of time before they sent them. They are starting to peel off a bit. I suppose it isn’t a big deal if they don’t stay on. It won’t change the performance of the scope. 


I know I have said a bunch of nit picky things about my Phantom 140. The important part is that the scope works really well. I have taken some of my best images with it, and it has become my goto scope for doing astrophotography. It can do galaxies, planetary nebulae and other nebulae that aren’t really large. I even squeezed M31 into the frame with an APS-C sensor. If the quality control had been a bit better I would’ve been totally happy with the scope. It’s all fixed now and I have a really good refractor, so no worries.


I need to amend part of what I said. I used a full frame Sony A7III on my M31 image. It’s been a while since I did that image.

M13 2
NGC6960B RGB session 1 St 2
Images using my Phantom 140
    • Kevin Barker, Jon_Doh, jerm503 and 2 others like this
Jul 03 2023 10:18 PM

Thanks for sharing Jeffmar!! Outstanding photos!!! I agree with everything you said. It's a premium product that needs a bit more attention to detail. Please share the M31 photo!!! I'm just starting out and the 140mm makes it feel easy!!



    • Jeffmar and ABQJeff like this
M31 again3
I believe I took this with my Sony A7III before I had a field flattener. I now use a Starizona .65 focal reducer/flattener and the stars are pretty good to the edge. 
    • Kevin Barker, Jon_Doh, Avgvstvs and 1 other like this
Jul 05 2023 10:10 PM

I think the price of $4,900 should be included since there is a mention that the telescope does not come into focus with some eyepieces. Otherwise, great review!

    • Avgvstvs and ABQJeff like this

Gourmet photos Jeffmar!

    • Jeffmar likes this

Gourmet photos Jeffmar!

Thanks, Oddyse!

I did this image last night using my Phantom 140. 




This telescope is good enough that the weak link is never the optics. 

    • rugby, jerm503, Stonemeister and 2 others like this
Jul 11 2023 07:12 PM

Outstanding photo!!!!

Outstanding photo!!!!


Aug 07 2023 10:11 PM

Thanks for your input. I have had 1 other comment asking for the price to be added. I will message the editor.

I do feel that the focuser issues are addressed adequately, and I did not wish for that one issue to take over the review. There are other owners out there that I have spoken with extensively. Some of which state that they do not have the same issues my iStar and a few other iStar owners have had with 2" eyepieces. There are a few things you could do to attempt to "make it work" like using a diagonal with a shorter light path, or use a shorter adapter after the draw tube. Those fixes have worked for some. I prefer what I prefer so I bought a focuser that would give me specifically what I want. I want all of my eyepieces, 3.7mm Ethos to 31mm T5, to come to focus in their 2" configuration. It is possible that taking the skirt off of my 3.7 & 4.7mm Ethos could have achieved focus, BUT screwing and unscrewing eyepieces in the dark in the feild is the last thing I want to do. 

I wrote this quick review by request of the owner and sent it to the owner hoping that he would make adjustments so that future buyers would get a better product.

Best wishes and clear sky's

    • Avgvstvs likes this

What is an "eyepiece?"

The label on the lens is wrong/poor. It's Fluorite not Fluoride.  Secondly 'crown' applies to any form of ordinary glass and is meaningless. it's no different to saying a 'glass' lens. Surely after this much money and effort, a little more might be expected. I guess things like loose screws and the tubes not being short enough for quality eyepieces says a lot about this production run. A good telescope is more than just optics.

    • Jeffmar likes this

The label on the lens is wrong/poor. It's Fluorite not Fluoride.  Secondly 'crown' applies to any form of ordinary glass and is meaningless. it's no different to saying a 'glass' lens. Surely after this much money and effort, a little more might be expected. I guess things like loose screws and the tubes not being short enough for quality eyepieces says a lot about this production run. A good telescope is more than just optics.

I have to agree with you. Even my Explore Scientific ED127, which doesn’t have the absolutely best optics, had much better fit and finish than my Phantom did. I really like my ES 127 because it is well put together. I didn’t have to fix anything for it to work well.

Sep 19 2023 06:03 PM


did you measure the Strehl Ratio or quoting from the manufacturer spec ?

If you measured can you say how did you measure it ? Thanks.

    • Stonemeister likes this
Sep 20 2023 12:09 AM


did you measure the Strehl Ratio or quoting from the manufacturer spec ?

If you measured can you say how did you measure it ? Thanks.

Strehl was determined by 3rd party (Starizona) not by iStar. I purchased the scope from Starizona. Give Starizona a call they are great, and would gladly explain the process to you.


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