The timing of this review is perfect. I just finished rebuilding my 1971 Criterion RV-6 Dynascope -- a 45 year old version of the economy telescope --> http://www.cloudynig...ascope-rebuild/
Criterion cut corners on the RV-6 with every component except the optics - it has a first rate mirror set. Explore Scientific has (hopefully!) followed the same design concept. It's raining today, and for the next 4-6 days, so star testing is postponed.
Meanwhile, everything about the FL-AR102 says, "attractive but cheap." The hardware looks authentic, but it's not. My Weber grill has a heftier & stabler tripod. My 1950s Edmund 4 has a plainer but stouter & smoother mount with vibration damping under 2 seconds. The AR102 is shaky with the tripod at its lowest height. Raise it to the max, and the flexure is obvious. Tap the focuser, and it'll dance for about 4 seconds - yikes! The thin-walled plastic knob & control grips discourage over-tightening - two are already loose.
The bag of accessories is the same way. The mirror diagonal... my wife's compact has a better first surface. The Super Plossl 25mm FMC looks like a Meade, but edge distortion is at least twice that budget eyepiece. The cell phone imaging platform is a soap dish with suction cups & an elastic band to hold your phone. Don't think I'll trust a $600 iPhone on that contraption...
Let me switch from grumpy old scope collector to first telescope owner. At this point, would I be happy with the FL-AR102? Yes. I just got a brand spanking new 4" F10 refractor with mount & tripod for $300 that looks just like old Bomber Bob's Classics that he's always yammering about. I don't have to take stuff apart, clean it, collimate it, polish it, etc. First clear night, I can take it straight outside and start looking at stars & planets. I got a great deal.
Edited by Bomber Bob, 03 December 2016 - 02:49 PM.