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Baytronix 150mm Newtonian
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Is it a Decent Telescope?
The short story: No, avoid this scope under all circumstances.
The Long story:
Over the years I have been an amateur astronomer, I have enjoyed observing
with many simple, inexpensive telescopes. Many of these are made in China
and sold by vendors such as Orion and Celestron. Examples are the Orion
XT-8 Dobsonian, the Celestron First Scope 80mm EQ and the Orion Space Probe
130 ST. Each of these scopes is capable of giving pleasing views, is reasonably
well made mechanically and is a good value. These scopes often have flaws,
undersized mounts, less than perfect focusers but overall are of decent quality
and capable of getting a new observer started in this hobby on the right foot.
I consider these to be decent scopes.
In the past few years Ebay has bloomed and with it a variety of products that seem to only be marketed on Ebay. In the Telescope world, these are known as EBay scopes and the most common one seems to be the 150mm 1400mm FL Short Tube Newtonian sold under a variety of names, Baytronix, Event Horizons, and Optrons are some of them. People who sell these seem to have good ratings and yet the astronomy community has given them bad marks and suggested that these scopes are to be avoided, "trash scopes." However, a serious review seems to be lacking so I decided to review an "EBay" scope in order to provide first timers with an honest appraisal from an experienced observer.
Thus, a few months ago when I saw a Baytronix 150/1400 Newtonian available on Astromart, I contacted the seller and arranged for purchase. My attitude in approaching this telescope and review was to give this scope every chance to perform and provide enjoyable views. My secret hope was that this scope would actually be a good value, a great deal though not a great scope. I wanted to find out whether if the Ebay scopes are "Decent scopes" or just imitations of the real thing.
Purchase and what I got:
As any hobbyist knows, the anticipation waiting for the arrival of new equipment is part of the pleasure and this scope was no different. It cost me $110 used, the first owner had apparently paid about $160 including shipping. The "Buy Now Price" plus shipping puts the Baytronix 150mm Newtonian at over $200. This is close enough to the entry-level 6 inch Dobsonians that one must keep them in mind when evaluating the Baytronix 150/1400.
The package arrived and of course I couldn't wait to tear it open. The entire scope arrived in a single box 11" x 14" x 32", surprisingly small for a six inch scope complete with an Equatorial mount. Visual inspection showed 2 decent looking Plossl eyepieces, 25mm and 6.5mm, a light weight extruded aluminum tripod, an EQ mount somewhere in size between and EQ-1 and an EQ-2 with a non-standard dovetail, a pair of non-hinged split rings, a maroon Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) 20 inches long with a smooth plastic focuser and a 6x30 finder on a plastic mount. Also included was plastic 2X barlow of limited usefulness. I was able to assemble it in 30 minutes and all went rather smoothly. The 3-vane spider supporting the secondary mirror is cast and part of the tube end ring.
First light with any telescope, whether it is an expensive sophisticated instrument or an inexpensive simple scope, is always a time of expectations, excitement and fear, the Baytronix 150/1400 was no different. Sometimes one takes a few first looks and knows that they are in the presence of an optical masterpiece. Sometimes one takes those first few looks and knows that there is work to be done but in general things are looking good. And sometimes one takes those first few looks and realizes that something is horribly wrong.
The first target for this Baytronix 150/1400 was the first quarter moon using the 25mm Plossl at 56x. In anticipation, the scope had been allowed to cool for more than an hour in the mild San Diego Spring weather. The eyepiece itself seemed quite decent (and in other scopes does a nice job) despite its limited 40 degree Apparent Field of View (AFOV.) The mount seemed reasonably sturdy, the action of the slow motion controls relatively smooth. The finder was adequate, not as bright or sharp as an Orion 6x30 finder. The finder mount is flexible plastic, a problem in those awkward positions but still, not so bad. The mechanical parts of this scope, while not really up to what I expect from Orion and Celestron entry level equipment, were still adequate to support this 20 inch OTA in a reasonable fashion..
I was ready to be pleasantly surprised by this low power view of the moon, in my experience even the most mediocre optics will give nice views of the moon at 50-60x. The brightness and overwhelming numbers of craters and canyons help make a sharp, exciting view.
However, that was not to be. My first view was extremely disappointing, the very center of the field of view had a slight amount of "crispness" that area was every small less than 10% of the field of view and the image became progressively "softer" away from the center. My number three had struck, something was horribly wrong. Switching eyepieces to a proven Plossl made no improvement. A quick look at Jupiter confirmed that there were serious problems. Not only had Jupiter developed its own bright nebular companion but there were no cloud bands to be seen. The moons were there to see but rather than being round points each was smear of aberrations. A single star could not be brought to a focus, rather large bright aberrations apparently partially comatic surrounded the star. Keeping the scope as it arrived, I pointed the finder towards the ring nebula M57 and then the Great Cluster in Hercules, M13. Each could be seen in the eyepiece. The view of M13 was not in keeping with the capabilities of a 6in F9 scope, at no magnification was there even a hint of resolution. In comparison my RV-6 with probably 30 year old mirror coatings shows resolution near the edge of M13, at 30X and quite nearly resolved at 130x.
At this point, the obvious conclusion was that the scope needed to be collimated. This was far worse behavior than I had ever seen before, far beyond what my 12.5 inch F4 can do when far out of collimation but still, collimation is one of the three keys to a Newtonian. (The others are cool down/thermal equilibrium and good seeing.)
Renowned Amateur "Monk's" Monkulus inspecting the 7 inch long drawtube and corrector for possible sources of the aberrations in the Baytronix 150/1400.
I finally decided that if the problem with this scope is collimation, it is beyond my capabilities and beyond those certainly of a first time scope owner, somone who simply wants a scope that is capable of providing reasonably sharp and artifact free views of the some interesting targets, the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, for the more adventurous, some nice DSOs.
With all this in mind, I took the Baytronix 150/1400 with me to the mountains for a dark site observing session. My hours of trial and error had slightly improved the views of Jupiter, the haze/nebula was slightly smaller, sometimes with careful "focusing" one could see hints of the cloud bands. Viewing DSOs was disappointing. They were there to be seen but the lacked any semblance of resolution or sharpness, no bright views sharp views of open clusters like the Butterfly Cluster (M6) or one of my favorites, the Wild Duck (M11) cluster. Even in my old Cometron Jr, 125mm Short Tube (as is the Baytronix) Newtonian the Wild Duck would focus into those myriad of pinpoint stars. In this scope, it was just blobby....
I spent $110 of my cash, money that could have gone to a better eyepiece or a nice finder or a gift for my wife, to get the lowdown on the Baytronix 150/1400 and by extension other Ebay telescopes. I had no expectations of the Baytronix 150/1400 though I did have hopes and dreams and a goal to share my experiences.
Since acquiring this scope I have discussed the optical issues with several other owners and there seems to be a consensus that none of them have decent optics and they viewers are similar to what I have seen. I do not believe this is a quality control problem, rather it is a design and manufacturing problem. These scopes just do not have the potential to provide the sorts of views one can expect from a entry level Chinese scope marketed by companies like Celestron, Orion, Hardin and Meade.
My final conclusion is that these scopes are poor imitations of a real telescope and should be avoided under all circumstances. This scope provides the worst views I have even seen in any telescope and that includes telescopes like the Jason 480, which later became the Celestron Table Top 76.
The amateur astronomical community as a whole has said that these telescopes are to be avoided and I wholeheartedly agree. They have been called many names by many people, but myself, I avoid using terms like "Junk" and "Trash," that is not my way.
Rather I suggest these telescopes are like a $50 department store bicycles, it looks like the real thing, in fact it is made to look like the real thing. One can hop on it and actually ride it up and down the street.
But if one happens to jump on a decent bicycle, one that has real brakes instead of imitation stamped steel brakes, one that fits the rider, one that has been properly put together and assembled, if one gets on a decent bike, then it is immediately apparent that one is but a toy, an imitation made to look like the real thing, the other is the real thing, a tool made to do a job in the best possible manner given the constraints of cost and size.
There are decent telescopes available for under $250, some under $200, that are quite nice. Examples are the Orion Starblast, the Hardin, Celestron and Orion 6 inch DOBs, the Orion 4.5 inch DOB, the Orion Space Probe 130, the Celestron First Scope 80 EQ, these are all good quality, decent scopes that are capable of providing excitement and exploration for observers young and old. In my view, the Baytronix 150/1400 is made to imitate the 6 inch F5 EQ-3 mounted Newtonians that are sold by Orion and others. Sadly, it is a far cry from these capable
"Monks" Monkulus remembering pinpoint views provided by the Orion Space Probe 130mm F5 Parabolic Newtonian and the disappointment of the Baytronix 150mm F9. He points out that the longer tube length of the SpaceProbe 130ST is the key to knowing that the longer focal length of the Baytronix is achieved by a refractive corrector scheme and that the mirror actually has a much shorter focal length.
While a persistent and skilled person could use the Baytronix 150/1400 and a creative person could replace the mirror or even regrind it, that is beyond limits of this review.
PLEASE DO NOT BUY THIS SCOPE, IT IS NOT A GOOD DEAL OR A GOOD SCOPE. IF
YOU HAVE ONE, PLEASE DO NOT SELL IT OR GIVE IT TO SOMEONE ELSE, DO THE COMMUNITY
A FAVOR AND KEEP IT OUT OF THE "FOOD CHAIN." I AM KEEPING MINE AND WOULD
FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE GIVING IT TO SOMEONE.
Best wishes, clear skies
About Jon Isaacs:
I have been a long time participant in astronomy on the web, first as a participant in the group Science.Astro.Amateur, learning from and conversing with the likes of "Uncle Rod" Mollise and other luminaries. I consider Rod "I never met a scope I didn't like" Mollise as my role model, "a true gentleman of the internet." I am something of a scope junky, I currently owns a dozen or so scopes, ranging from the Orion Funscope 76mm (a great scope) to a pair of 12.5 inch Newtonians. I enjoy observing with simple inexpensive telescopes and enjoy tweaking them to get the most from them. I believe it is my ability to enjoy simple scopes in spite of their flaws that allows me to evaluate scopes like the Baytronix 150/1400 in way that has meaning to first time scope owners.
I am currently a moderator on both the Astromart and CloudyNights Beginner's forum. My goal is to be a "trusted friend" for people who are just starting out without experience and without someone to help them. I hope to be someone to guide them and help them make wise choices with their hard-earned money.
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