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CN Reports Review: Orion SkyQuest XX14i

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#26 djeber2

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 05:19 PM

Great review, thanks.

#27 David Knisely

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 02:44 PM

Well, I have finished my measurements and discovered that a Protostar secondary support system won't work on the upper OTA section of the Orion XX14i. It would have to be mounted just ahead of the front end of the tube, so I am stuck with Orion's silly double-side sticky foam tape method of mounting the secondary mirror. I just continue to wonder why things that most of us "amateurs" see as significant design flaws continue to make it into commercial telescope equipment. Otherwise, the scope is working fairly well. It is a real "planet killer" with the Paracorr, as on the moon the other night, the fine detail visible with the new Lockwood Optics mirrors was simply incredible. The scope still has more altitude "bounce" than I would like, and I haven't yet pinned-down exactly what the cause is (tube flexure or rocker-box movement). Clear skies to you.

#28 davidpitre

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 10:09 PM

It would have to be mounted just ahead of the front end of the tube, so I am stuck with Orion's silly double-side sticky foam tape method of mounting the secondary mirror.


Why can you not remove the foam tape and use 3 dabs of silicone?
An alternative to the Protostar holder/spider is the Astrosystems unit.

#29 David Knisely

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 10:53 PM

It would have to be mounted just ahead of the front end of the tube, so I am stuck with Orion's silly double-side sticky foam tape method of mounting the secondary mirror.


Why can you not remove the foam tape and use 3 dabs of silicone?
An alternative to the Protostar holder/spider is the Astrosystems unit.


I could use silicone, but it basically comes down to the same problem: adhesives on glass. They can and do fail eventually, although the tape seems to be working fairly well for now. I would prefer a fully-mechanical way of supporting and aligning the secondary, but again, the geometry of the XX14's upper cage situation just does not allow the "full shell" type of secondary holders that I like so much. There simply isn't enough forward room in the upper OTA section to attach the spider that goes with even the shortest shell-type secondary holder. The ends of the spider would have to be jury-rigged with some kind of forward tube extensions in order to be attached, and that would be difficult to do (it would screw up the balance as well). Clear skies to you.

#30 calibos

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 09:20 AM

David, What about the pyramid geometry spiders you see on UC scopes that don't even have a UTA but just a truss retaining ring with focuser and pyramid spider attached.

#31 Starman1

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 10:20 AM

David, What about the pyramid geometry spiders you see on UC scopes that don't even have a UTA but just a truss retaining ring with focuser and pyramid spider attached.

This is a great way to lower the focuser and make the scope seem shorter, but it is a poor way to create dimensional stability for collimation.
Because when the scope points to the zenith, that form of spider doesn't sag--the weight of the secondary is directly under the spider. But when the scope points closer to the horizon, the weight of the secondary is to the side of the spider, and imparts a twisting force on the spider.
The twisting force can be mitigated by applying a counterweight on the other side of the spider that equals the torque of the secondary weight (a solution I seldom see), by mounting the secondary right next to the spider vanes, or by increasing the tightness of the spider.
The pyramidal spider arrangement on some ultralights cannot be so tightened, so the vanes have to be much thicker and heavier, which increases their diffraction in the image.
And, in my experience, they produce collimation shift with altitude of pointing.
I have yet to see (admittedly, my sample is relatively small--only a few scopes) even one ultralight that maintains collimation as the pointing angle of the scope changes.
Is it possible to design an ultralight to hold collimation? Yes. But maybe not with a single ring upper. I know how tight the spider vanes have to be to hold the secondary stiffly enough, and that degree of tightness would be difficult to achieve unless the external attachment of the spider vanes went through a structure that was immune to compression. A dual ring upper with the rings separated by a few inches might be a better design.
But then we're drifting back toward a conventional design.

#32 calibos

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 11:43 AM

Don, just to clarify because I am not familiar with atm scope spider issues never mind UC ATM issues and because I am not sure you understood what I was proposing. The bit about 'drifting back towards a conventional design' makes me think you might have thought I was suggesting replacing the whole UTA.

David would prefer to use the conventional premium/atm type of secondary holder. These are taller than the lumps of aluminium and sticky pad/silicone type of secondary holder that Synta and GSO use. To accomodate one of these premium secondary holders in his Orion XX14i, he would need to affix the Orion spider higher up the UTA except he can't because its already near the top because the Orion has an undersized UTA.

I was not suggesting that he design and fit a whole new UC type UTA to his Orion but that he fit a UC type pyramid spider to his existing Orion UTA which might give him the clearance he needs for the premium secondary holder. Would the fact that the pyramid spider was affixed tightly to the Orion rolled steel UTA make any difference to the points you made above? Your points are probably still valid whether you misunderstood me or not but I thought I would just double check and clarify in case a misunderstanding did make a difference.

#33 Starman1

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 01:36 PM

Keith,
I understood, but made an aside about the ultralight upper rings.
Though it would allow the use of a conventional secondary holder, it's not a good solution to his problem.

#34 David Knisely

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 01:42 PM

David, What about the pyramid geometry spiders you see on UC scopes that don't even have a UTA but just a truss retaining ring with focuser and pyramid spider attached.


That might be possible, but I don't know any that are commercially made. The spider vanes would have to be pretty thick to hold it without sagging. It would probably need to be fixed to the lower ring of the upper tube assembly, as the rest of the UTA is just thin rolled steel. Clear skies to you.

#35 Jb32828

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 06:05 PM

Wouldnt something like http://www.smarthome...-ADAPTER/p.aspx solve the battery problem?

#36 David Knisely

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 06:08 PM

Wouldnt something like http://www.smarthome...-ADAPTER/p.aspx solve the battery problem?


Nope, it would not. It would mean an extra line to run up along the main cord rather than inside of the cord as should have been done. I can easily put a 9V voltage regulator in a circuit to power the thing off of 12 Volts, but the problem is getting the power to the hand controller. You would have to run another 2-line external wire for the power to the controller unit which would get tangled with the regular cord. Clear skies to you.

#37 Al Miller

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 08:37 PM

Thanks! A very detailed and informative report. It's has convinced me to not purchase one of these scopes.

#38 Tony Bonanno

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 03:20 PM

Hi Dave,

Really thought the review was well done. Balanced and fair. I had the Orion 14" GOTO on order since November (who knows when or IF they will ever actually get them to market). Then, just last week, I had a chance to purchase a nice used 12.5" Obsession Classic with Argo-Navis DSC's (but NO Goto) at a very fair price. Three days ago I canceled the Orion order as I'm very pleased with the smaller Obsession. Optically, it seems to be doing quite well, although I haven't had the chance to do a good star test due to mediocre seeing conditions. After reading your article on the 14" Intelliscope, I'm thankful that I canceled the Orion order.

#39 David Knisely

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 12:50 AM

Thanks Tony. The only thing keeping me from using the scope right now is the weather, but it looks like we have a break coming soon. I have done some limited deep-sky with the XX14i from my driveway, and I like what I see. The little reddish fringe of the "Raspberry" Nebula IC 418 was quite a bit easier to see in the big scope than it is in my 10 inch, and M42 is to die for. However, the biggest impact has come from observing the moon during periods of outstanding seeing. I have become a fan of lunar observing now, as the big 14 inch aperture has really brought out tiny small scale detail that I couldn't have possible pulled out in smaller scopes (1 km craterlet resolution for example). Clear skies to you.

#40 MikeM6

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 05:08 PM

I also enjoyed this review. If I ever get one of these, I probably would not use the intelliscope feature. Too bad they can't knock a bit off the price if you don't want this feature. I just need a bigger light bucket, not gee-whiz electronics. That's just me.

#41 David Knisely

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 05:34 PM

I also enjoyed this review. If I ever get one of these, I probably would not use the intelliscope feature. Too bad they can't knock a bit off the price if you don't want this feature. I just need a bigger light bucket, not gee-whiz electronics. That's just me.


Actually, the Intelliscope's cost isn't all that high (less than a good 2" eyepiece). It is simple to set up and use, although its pointing accuracy isn't quite as good as with my NexStar 9.25GPS. I often don't use it myself, as I know the sky pretty well. However, it did prove useful the other night when hunting down a faint double star in strong moonlight (a day before full moon). Then, all I had to do was match the Intelliscope's Right Ascension and Declination readout to the figures in my book and voila, the double was nicely in the field of view. Clear skies to you.

#42 MikeM6

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 05:40 PM

Thanks for the info!

I also wonder how well the collimation holds from session to session. Anyone notice a problem?

#43 David Knisely

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 07:08 PM

Thanks for the info!

I also wonder how well the collimation holds from session to session. Anyone notice a problem?


The secondary holds up pretty well. The primary does need a slight tweak or two right after you get the scope set up, but otherwise, the scope stays pretty well collimated during observing. Clear skies to you.

#44 David Knisely

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 04:58 PM

Well, after a while using the scope, I have had some interesting thoughts about parts of it:

1. Mirror Cell: this has been something of a disappointment. While it looks like an 18-point mirror cell, the way it is implemented, it really isn't. The triangles that support the mirror are not free to pivot in all directions to allow them to conform to the mirror's back surface, although they can rotate a bit. Indeed, on the connecting arms between the triangles, there is a tiny pin inserted which pushed up against each triangle, preventing it from pivoting inward. This makes the entire mirror cell more like a six point system than a true 18 point system, so the support on the mirror is not nearly as good as I would have liked (and it sometimes shows up in the images). The connecting arms between the triangles also aren't allowed to pivot very much. At least the 9-point Novak cell on my 10 inch f/5.6 is a true 9-point system, as each triangle can pivot with all degrees of freedom so that each support point on the triangle can contact and support the mirror equally. This seems to be another case of Orion wanting things to merely look good rather than actually being good.

2. Intelliscope Boards: As predicted, I did manage to temporarily "break" one of the encoder boards, but it was the azimuth encoder that had a problem first. In removing the cable for the encoder prior to disassembly for transport, the housing for the socket came loose from the board, remaining firmly attached to the plug. After taking the encoder board out, I discovered that the phone jack for the cable was merely a press-fit into two tiny holes on the board, so after putting a little superglue into each hole and re-seating the jack, all was well again. Just a tiny dab of glue in each hole at the manufacturing facility would have prevented this problem, so again, the appearance of this is another symptom of "cheapness". As for the Intelliscope itself, that ugly green illumination was actually almost painful to my eyes while at my dark sky site, so with the continuing inaccuracy of the unit (about 1/4 to more than half a degree pointing error), I doubt I will be using it much other than nights when I am going after double stars in strong moonlight.

3. Fan Power Jack: The small computer cooling fan on the bottom of the mirror cell is a nice idea, but the power jack left much to be desired. Rather than firmly mounting it in a panel or some other mechanical arrangement, the fan's power jack was merely stuck on the side of the fan using double sided foam tape! Needless to say, that tape didn't last long. Once the tape let go, the jack and its wires were free to go anywhere they wanted to, and unfortunately for me, this included a place where something could trap the jack and pull it off the wires! This was the situation, as I store the bottom section of the OTA on its base, allowing the jack to get pulled off when it rubs against anything (like my back seat where I put the scope for transport). I was lucky to find the jack in my van where it was, lying on the floor. The wires to the fan were rather short, but I did manage to get them re-soldered back onto the jack. After that, I pulled out the superglue again and firmly glued the jack onto the side of the fan slightly behind where it had once been to avoid contact with any objects. Sticky tape (even double sided foam tape) is *not* mechanically mounting anything! This again says "quick and dirty" rather loudly.

Clear skies to you.

#45 David Knisely

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Posted 24 August 2011 - 03:26 PM

Well, it turns out that the person who assembled the primary mirror cell probably had his Wheaties that morning, because each and ever pivot point retaining screw was tightened-down incredibly hard. No wonder the pivots in the cell wouldn't move! Once I released them a little, the triangles and the rocker arms connecting them all are free to move a bit, so the cell is now indeed a full 18-point unit. I also had my machinist shorten all the truss tubes by a full inch, so now all my eyepieces and Barlows come to focus (as well as my binoviewer, which was a pleasant surprise). As for the performance, the scope did *really* well at the 18th annual NEBRASKA STAR PARTY, where I was able to use up to 961x on the Cat's Eye. I have named the scope, "The Black Mamba", and here is what is going on the side of the lower OTA:

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#46 CurtJ

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Posted 09 June 2012 - 09:34 AM

Dang, and I thought I was learning something about my XX12G, but alas I'm but the noob I started as. Humbling to read that review in all its detail.

I would add for anyone considering this scope that while I can second all that David said about assembling/disassembly for purposes of daily viewing, that I nevertheless feel it is less of a concern to me. Meaning the points he makes are accurate, but I gave them far less weight in my estimation. Of course, I have only the 12" and he the 14", plus your mileage may vary by age and whatever else, but to me getting the thing up and out and assembled is a bit of a breeze. Just my .02, for anyone considering this scope or its 12" twin. I like that i can fit the whole thing in my smallish-mid sized sedan for transpo purposes, with room for other stuff.

#47 David Knisely

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 03:30 AM

Well, yes, there are notable differences in the assembly of the 12 vs. the 14 inch. First off, the OTA of the 14 inch is three inches longer than that of the 12, and the upper part is larger and heavier than with the 12 inch. This makes it notably easier for one person to assemble the 12 inch than the 14 inch. I can put my 14 in some rather small vehicles as well, but I can still set up and get my NexStar 9.25GPS SCT aligned and ready for use faster than I can my XX14i (I am rather picky about Newtonian collimation). After the Lockwood Custom Optics refiguring of the primary and secondary mirrors, the 14 inch has been a real killer on both deep-sky and the moon and planets, but that big thick mirror does cause some delay in cool-down, so the fan must be kept running a lot of the time (no big deal, as it is quiet and doesn't induce any vibration at all). However, I am less satisfied with the dual-speed focuser now that I have used it for a while. I used the scope so much that the focuser started slipping, occasionally completely losing the ability to move 2" eyepieces. There were no good instructions on how to adjust and maintain that focuser, so it took nearly two hours just to figure out what needed to be done and get things tightened up enough to get the unit back in operation. That experience alone made me long for my old belt-driven focuser on my 10 inch or even an old rack-and-pinion focuser. The XX14i is a fairly good scope, but it is definitely *not* a great one. Clear skies to you.

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#48 Jb32828

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 12:16 PM

I have to second David's experience with the focuser. I happen to like mine on my XX12G, but, yes, the documentation on how to get it adjusted correctly is pretty much non-existant, and took me more time to figure out than the entire initial scope assembly did.

Unlike David's unfortunate experience, I got a very good mirror. As I stated in my review of the XX12G, there are some things that could be improved on, but that shouldnt take away from what I consider to be a very good value for the price.

#49 droid

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 06:16 AM

Dave; great review....2 questions ,if I might.

Was your 14 the new version with the conical mirror?
And if someone bought one, Id assume it would usable as is???refering to the mirror.

#50 David Knisely

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 05:18 PM

Dave; great review....2 questions ,if I might.

Was your 14 the new version with the conical mirror?
And if someone bought one, Id assume it would usable as is???refering to the mirror.


My mirror was the standard cylindrical model which came out first. Its aspect ratio (1 to 7) is a little on the thick side, which contributes to its longer cool-down time. As-is, it was somewhat usable at lower powers, but on the planets at higher magnifications, the views were just a little on the soft side. The newer mirrors out now are all conical with radial "rib" structures. I got to test one of our Nebraska Star Party attendees' XX14i that she got recently, and on the star test, it passed with flying colors. However, right out of the box, the focuser exhibited a nasty grinding sound and feel from one of the two knobs when used, so I guess Orion's quality control is still slipping up. Clear skies to you.


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