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REVIEW OF SUMERIAN OPTICS ALKAID 16” TRAVEL SCOPE


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REVIEW OF SUMERIAN OPTICS ALKAID 16” TRAVEL SCOPE

You may not know it, but you, like me, are a minimalist. It seems like an absurd statement in a hobby like ours where you could probably bury yourself in a mound of gadgets, but deep down, you, like me, desperately love the simplistic nature of astronomy. For a long while I tried various telescopes (scopes) looking for my perfect match, and finally I think I’ve found one. I am a busy professional, and I don’t get much observing time in, but when I do, I like to be “wow’d”. I needed a portable medium to large aperture scope that is rock solid but very compact. The Sumerian Optics Alkaid is one slick animal, and ticked many of my requirement boxes. I own a 8” Nexstar and an 18” Obsession UC. Both are beautiful scopes, but I found the 18” was not getting much use due to its weight and size.

Ordering process:
The company itself is run by one man from what I know, and he was quick to answer most of my questions. After selecting several options, the scope arrived 3 months later in a well packed box. Everything was well packaged and protected. I got a nice follow up email from Sumerian checking all was in order. I like this kind of customer service.

The Scope:
The design and finish was top class. It really looked like a premium product. The scope and all its components except the truss poles fit into a box that’s 45 cm x 45 cm x 20cm. Amazing! When not in use it can really just slide under the bed or fit in a cupboard. It is surprisingly light as well, and the box can be lifted by just one person and carried about. For a 16” scope this is unheard of. The truss poles are split into two, and are covered in an insulating rubber – clever as with my obsession 18” UC, I found the poles got very cold and uncomfortable to hold and I suspect had slight changes in size due to this.


All Set up and ready to go!

Setup:
Ok so you’re ready to go: All I take is my eyepiece case, the Carry Box, and truss pole case. Its’ really that easy! Setting is a quick process: First the truss poles are threaded together, I suppose you could leave them connected but I live in a small flat so it’s just neater to keep separated. Next the box is unpacked with quick release clips, and out pops the primary mirror, upper tube ring and other bits, to which you attach the two altitude arcs. The poles are put into the primary base, and once the upper ring is connected and secondary attached, you are ready to collimate and observe. The whole process requires no tools and uses quick releases. Setup time is total 10 minutes, maybe less!

Using the Scope and travel:
The base has small threaded adjustments to level the base if the ground is not level. Collimation is made very easy by having the screws facing the upper cage. The movements of the scope are very smooth, and the tension strings are perfect for even very heavy eyepiece/barlow combos. The base of the scope has ingenious grids which make the scope very sturdy. Collimation holds very well, and I find I only need to check it every few hours. The Upper Ring has a feathertouch focuser which has a 4 point connection which eliminates any flex which sometimes gets ultra-light dobs in trouble. I also had a DSC and sky commander kit on the scope for added convenience. At zenith the eyepiece is at about 172cm so no step needed – one less thing to worry about! The rocker has 3 small fans built in and a dew heater is connected to the secondary. Sumerian Optics really thought of everything!

I took the scope on a trip overseas very easily. The split truss poles fit into an 81cm Luggage case. I removed the 16” primary mirror and put it into a specially designed plastic case that fits into my hand luggage. The main box also fits into the 81cm main luggage. The only problem was the weight- the 81cm bag (Samsonite inova) was now 16Kg which left me with 4 Kg to spare (total bag weight restriction on the airline I was flying was 20Kg). So I ended up buying another checked bag for my clothes. It worked out perfectly, and the scope arrived on the other side in perfect condition, and I was able to enjoy some amazing dark skies in Africa with a large scope.

Conclusion:
If you want a high quality scope that is also transportable then this is about as good as it gets. Honestly I have owned several high quality scopes and this is one of the most refined ones available. I use it more because it is so simple to use. I have been able to get it out to very dark skies that would have been impossible with my other scopes! If I was to find any weaknesses, I would say there should be a shroud that comes with the scope, I had to have one made for it. I also feel that more felt/velvet pads should be used to protect the wood from the metal surfaces. I ended up gluing a few extra on myself. Finally I would want the truss poles made out of carbon fibre to make it even lighter. I am overall very happy with this scope, and it is now my most used instrument.


  • bgi, jrbarnett, Rollo and 30 others like this


24 Comments

This scope looks pretty impressive. I noticed that they also have a 10" model that is airline carry on size (except for the truss poles, which can fit into checked luggage)

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cracked lens
Nov 27 2015 09:24 AM

What was the price for the 16"? Reason because the 16" is no longer avaliable so I was looking at the 12" This would give me a ball park figure.

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davidmclifton
Nov 27 2015 10:11 PM

Some pricing to evaluate against the reviewed quality would be helpful.

    • cracked lens likes this

How easy is it to install the DSC?

What was the price for the 16"? Reason because the 16" is no longer avaliable so I was looking at the 12" This would give me a ball park figure.

Last I checked they would not sell to the US.  :(

 

- Jim

    • Dan Reitemeier and cracked lens like this

Teleskop Service in Germany shows the 12" in stock, and they sell to the US. 1904 Euros export price with a standard GSO primary, 2230 Eruros export price with a TS quartz primary. 75 Euros for shipping to US.

>> Collimation holds very well, and I find I only need to check it every few hours.

How well does it pass the "barlowed laser return beam test" in terms of the return image/beam shifting position when the scope in different angles and position?

Nice review of a very nice scope. I've seen some Sumerians around here in the Netherlands and I'm every time impressed by the compactness of the design and craftmanship. Why are you selling it if you're so happy with it ?

In UC dobsons the main problem is stability.
I tried a 12" Alkaid, a 14" Alkaid and a 16" Canopus.
In your 16" Alkaid how long does it take to settle down vibrations at high power?

    • 5dave and astroflak88 like this

Robson87, how bad were the vibrations with the 14" Alkaid?

With the 14" Alkaid they were really bad, about 5 seconds with a not heavy eyepiece and giving a hit to the top of the scope (the mirror was a Hubble Optics).
But that was the old version, now both the Alkaid and Canopus should be much more solid.
I know two astrophiles who own the Canopus 16" and they are very happy with it.

I did not realize the Sumerians were so advanced in optics!

    • Trevor Durity and Kunama like this

Sumerian it's only the structure.
You can choose the optics that you want ;)

I am very tempted to get a 14" Alkaid, but I am worried about vibrations. My favourite eyepiece is a Panoptic 35mm (2" - weighs 1.6lbs) - does anyone have experience with the Alkaid and that size eyepiece? Will the wobblies drive me crazy?

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nicknacknock
Dec 10 2015 05:42 AM

Misha,

 

You could also ask Michael of Sumerian Optics if he can make the trusses thicker to dampen vibrations more. It's a possibility.

This is quite an engineering achievement. To pack up a 16" scope into a carry case is amazing.  I would not have expected it to be possible.

 

Not something I am likely to buy any time soon but still, impressive to know that it is available.  I hope they do well with them.

    • cracked lens likes this

Before now I  thought the phrase " 16  Travel Scope" was an oxymoron.

nice scope! excellent combination of an aperture and dark sky, thanks for the review!

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Kidastronomer
Jan 17 2016 07:29 PM
AN AIRLINE PORTABLE 16"?!?!?!?

My piggy bank looks nervous now. :lol:

Completely stunning scope.

Just ordered the 12" F4 GSO Alkaid with an equatorial platform. Now for the wait...

I struggle with the words "16 inch scope" and "travel" in the same sentence.

Michael's scope are designed such that you end up with with a sort of brief case shaped final object - just I expect square rather then oblong, and a bit thicker.

 

So in that respect carrage is easy - maybe exclude the poles from that. Unsure of weight as 16" of glass is not going to be lightweight and there is the other assortment of wood, mirror cell etc wrapped around it all. Just consider that the size is "portable" rather then the mass.

 

Thing is that you can put say a 20"x20"x8" "box" in a car easier then the same 16" dobsonian. OK maybe 24"x24"x12" box. To my mind, pretty useless thing it is, I would have thought that a small 6" was more useful, literally a carry round item and go anywhere, and up to 10" maybe 12" being reasonably easy to transport in that design. I agree that at some stage immaterial of design the term "transportable" is lost.

 

Ed was more decisive then I was and got the reasonable size one, then Michael had problems and withdrew from production of them. Kick myself for that.



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