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Celestron's tiny Dob vs. an old 50mm Tasco

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#1 Olivier Biot

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Posted 19 June 2010 - 09:11 AM

A shootout with pop-guns - Celestron’s tiny Dob vs. an old 50mm Tasco

#2 7331Peg


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Posted 19 June 2010 - 02:14 PM

Very thorough review, Greg. Lots of food for thought. Nice to see attention continuing to be given to the small refractors these days!


#3 astroneil



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Posted 20 June 2010 - 05:24 PM


Nice review. It's important to let folk know what these little starter scopes serve up. I know which one I'd be reaching for on a night out!



#4 PAW


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Posted 21 June 2010 - 12:39 AM

I bought the Celestron for less than $40, and though I used it a few times it spends most of it's time on a shelf as a tribute to the science of Astronomy.

#5 Greg Stone

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 09:34 AM

I bought the Celestron for less than $40, and though I used it a few times it spends most of it's time on a shelf as a tribute to the science of Astronomy.

And it does that very nicely - sort of reminds me of Newton's first reflector - and painfully cute to boot

#6 tnakazon



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Posted 30 June 2010 - 12:07 AM

Greg - thanks for this review.

I've owned and used two telescopes: a 50mm Tasco 66TE purchased in 1980 for about $125 (the 66TE has a full-length tripod) and an Orion Funscope I just bought in March this year.

I haven't used the former scope since '86 and various components (eyepieces, tripod, fork mount) have since been misplaced and scattered around my house and storeroom. Right now, I just have the tube, finder and diagonal prism, as well as a 2X Barlow and erecting tube available. I remember it giving me good views of the planets (Saturn's rings and Titan, Jupiter's moons and banding on the planet). However, I never had much luck with deep sky objects because of the small field of view and the largest eyepiece yielding 30X magnification (the two other eyepieces yielded 45X or 48X and 100X – the latter being virtually useless), as well as not having proper deep-sky charts back then. I was however, very proud of being able to find and see M57 (the Ring Nebula) as a faint oval glow and being able to get a good view of M8 (the Lagoon Nebula). I lived/still live in suburban Los Angeles and it seems there was less light pollution back in the early 80’s than there is now.

I returned to astronomy early this year after 24 years of inactivity. After reading various telescope reviews online, I decided to get my feet back in slowly and inexpensively with the Orion Funscope (over the Celestron Firstscope for the same reasons that you mentioned). As for the quality - well, with the f/3.9 spherical mirror, stars and other objects get noticeably distorted the further away from the center of the field of view. Nevertheless, this 76 mm scope has enabled me to get a glimpse of the deep sky objects (DSO) that I was never able to observe with my 50mm Tasco. The red dot finder works great in centering the telescope onto a visible star as a marker to star hop my way to the desired DSO location. With the included 20mm eyepiece at 15X (giving a good wide field view for navigating the skies), the included 10 mm eyepiece at 30X, and an Orion 2X Barlow that I bought separately (boosting the 10mm eyepiece to 60X), some of the DSO’s I’ve been able to observe in the past 2 months from the light-polluted suburbs of Los Angeles (where I cannot see with my naked eye stars beyond 5.0 on a clear night) include:

o) the Leo galaxies M65, M66, M96, M95 (difficult at first, but easier now), M105, NGC 3384 (right next to M105), and NGC 2903.
o) the Ursa Major galaxies M81, M82, M101 (the core), and the twin cores of M51 and NGC 5195.
o) the Ursa Major planetary M97 (difficult at first, but no problem now).
o) the Canes Venatici galaxies M63, M94, NGC4490, NGC4449 (haven’t searched for M106 yet).
o) the Ophiuchus globular clusters M9, M10, M12, M14, and M107. With M10, I can just see individual stars glistening within the oval cloud at 60X.

I also caught a glimpse of M108 and M109 in Ursa Major, if only for a fleeting moment, on separate nights. With a slightly darker sky site, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to convincingly see these two galaxies. NGC 3628, the third member of the Leo Trio with M65 and M66, has eluded me so far, but a darker sky should allow me to catch sight of it.

So as to your question regarding the quality of the scope, given its performance in detecting deep sky objects, I would say it is of high quality and probably the most inexpensive “useful” astronomical telescope available today. I have not used it on the planets, but given its short focal length, it probably will not give as good a view as our older 50mm Tasco refractors would. It is extremely portable and fits easily into a regular-sized backpack that has a wide base. Because of its light weight (scope and base combined weighs only 4 pounds), attaching a camera/video tripod to the base provides steady views.

BTW, I haven’t yet made the effort to search for the various misplaced components of my 50mm Tasco 66TE to try to put it back together, but with all the fun I’m having with my Funscope, it can wait.

#7 Greg Stone

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 10:10 PM

Boy, you are doing great!

You make a convincing case for the Funscope, but you make an even more convincing case for just plain perseverance. IMHO too many amateurs today are getting hooked by computer technology and jumping from one object to another. They are not taking the time you are taking to see - to really observe.

Your 50mm Tasco may or may not be an effective scope. I say that because from various reports Tasco stopped making really quality scopes after the early 70s. I can't confirm this is true, but whether it is or not I know that a good 50mm refractor can excel on reasonably bright objects - a number of double stars, for example, and, of course, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon and Mars when it is close. There are also a few bright star clusters that look good in them.

But they simply don't gather enough light to display most DSOs well, though it can be a fun game to try to track them down anyways.

I went through a similar experience as yours - that is I didn't pay much attention to astronomy for several years, then when I got back into it I limited myself to 70mm binoculars for about six months and taught myself the sky afresh, finding most of the Messier objects. Then when I switched to larger scopes I really had a ball.

Hope your experience is similar and may you never outgrow the joy of a small scope. I have a 15-inch now, but it frequently sits idle as I explore with a 60mm - there's some special magic in seeing so much with so little ;-)

#8 tnakazon



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Posted 01 July 2010 - 04:34 PM

Thanks Greg!

I agree about your comment re: newbies to the hobby today – wanting to jump in using Dobsonians or Cassegrains with the Go-To technology.

Regarding Tasco, the general consensus is that quality really went down in the mid-80’s with Halley comet fever, when Tasco no longer imported telescopes from Japan and started importing cheaper scopes from Taiwan and other Asian countries. The tubes went from white to red and the scopes became mainly plastic, instead of metal. There is a great forum on this in Cloudy Nights under the heading “Tasco quality, when was it lost?”. Here is the link:


The Tasco I bought in 1980 has a white body, with a metal dew cap, metal tube, metal lens cell, and metal star diagonal. I took apart the lens cell and out came two beautiful glass achromatic lenses. I opened up the star diagonal and found a glass prism, instead of a mirror used in most cheap star diagonals today. Also, there is a sticker on the bottom of the tube saying that it “passed” the Japan Telescopes Inspection Institute – a sign of quality optics. I’m glad that I was able to purchase a reasonably quality scope back then – if I’d known this a quarter of a century ago, I would have taken better care of it (there are scratch marks all over the white metal dew cap and tube and I’ve misplaced various components since).

But going back to the Orion Funscope, I paid a lot less for it now (especially counting inflation) than I did 30 years ago with the Tasco, and able to see a lot more with it.

Yes, you do need a bigger aperture to get good views of DSO’s, especially galaxies and nebulae, but like you said, it’s a lot of fun just to be able to track them down. If I’m able to detect a faint glow from a galaxy or nebula close to the limit of my aperture capability (e.g. a 10th magnitude object with a low surface brightness using a 76 mm. mirror) on a transparent, but otherwise light-polluted sky, then I’m thrilled.

#9 Shneor


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Posted 09 November 2010 - 02:03 AM

OK, I already own eyepieces. I bought a Firstscope for $35 at Big5 and a couple more at $20 each at Fry's. The first time I took it out, I put a 9mm Nagler in the focuser. removed the tube from the support, went out and found Jupiter (saw 3 moons) and M31 and M42. No finder, views lasted just a few seconds each. But this scope will work nicely with cheap plossls 4-20mm. I've given one as a gift, with a couple of plossls, and the other will also be a gift - with a couple of plossls. Also, another night, a gibbous moon...it's really a nice little scope, but of course, it could stand enhancements. Might be good for backpackers, too.

#10 BSJ


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Posted 09 November 2010 - 07:12 AM

My First scope arrived yesterdy from Amazon for $29.99 shipped.

I plan on piggy-backing it on my 6SE. But... It is WAAAAY out of colimation. I enlarged the holes holding the primary to the tube so that at least I can tilt it a little.

The secondary isn't centered under the focuser so that will have to be addressed. The three adjusting screws just tighten the secondary holder against an O-ring so there is very little range of movement. I think something spongey but a bit thicker than the o-ring will solve that problem.

I need to get it under the stars to see if it warrents any further work...

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