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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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