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Skywatcher 120 ED first light and review

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#1 fishmike

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 12:56 PM

Hi everyone. Hope the holidays are treating everyone well.

 

I have been pining for a good sized refractor for some time. My first scope was the Celestron 102 F/10 Omni. After that I quickly went bigger with the Evo9.25. I loved and still love that Evo, however the mount made it tough to do even the most basic imaging and I wanted to at least have the option of putting the wife’s DSRL on there and getting something. Enter the CGEM mount, which would replace the Evo mount. As for the scope? I knew I wanted a bigger APO. I had used only achros prior to picking up the ED80. In a nutshell what I learned from the 80ED was the APO corrected optics were worth paying for… up to a price.

 

Best advice I have ever read regarding astronomy? The best scope you own is the one you use the most. I wanted a good sized APO, but something easy enough to limit grab and go. All my searches kept pointing to the Skywatcher 120ED. Here were the deciding factors:
Aperture: 120mm is a really nice spot. I have noticed a considerable jump in what you can see between 100mm vs. 120mm and having a good number of hours with 80mm, 100mm and 120mm refractors I really wanted the extra lightgrab
Price: I did not have a budget. My first choice was an NP-101. However the $1550 price tag for the SW was simply too enticing to pass up
Size: The SW is a doublet making it much lighter than 120mm triplets. In my research we are talking 11lbs vs. 20(ish) for 120mm triplets. That was a big factor. Also the 900mm focal length was still short enough to do some wide viewing (2.7degree true field with my 31mmT5)
Reviews: Many satisfied users and while some had complaints the consistent theme was incredible optics for that price level.

 

Trigger pulled. 

 

I have and still use a Twilight I mount for my smaller scopes and simply love it. Hoping for a similar experience I picked up the beefier Twilight II. Total disaster, it’s going back and on the way is a Stellarvue M002CS. Not to worry. I picked up a longer dovetail so I would have some flexibility mounting this scope. Not to mention the big weight disparity between EPs etc.. On the CGEM the Skywatcher goes and here we go.

 

*** a note on the type of observing I do:
I am a nature lover first, scientist second. I love scanning the skies for stuff, and enjoying the pretty views along the way. Living in a light polluted area I love the open clusters and planets the best, but when at dark sites those still tend to be my favorite targets. I do most of my observing at the lowest magnifications the scope allows. My 24mm Pan is the work horse EP in my rotation. I will have hour long sessions and that EP doesn’t leave the scope. Next would be the 31mm Nagler. The big fella gets tons of love, but does push the optics of the ST120 and 9.25inch Evo OTA so the immersive feel is nice but it’s a bit soft around the edges. This EP does plays wonderfully with the ED80. A dark site joy. After those EPs the others are when I want more detail and I feel like studying. My patio (aka observing site) has tons of obstruction, so I observe first with what sky is available, and focus on targets after.

 

First light:
How often in life are things great right away? No adjustments, no telling yourself you will learn to love this or work around that… bam, just awesomeness right out of the gate? Rare in life but the Skywatcher did it. My first “peek” was at the moon for about 10 minutes and it wasn’t this night. It was while I was building the mount and it was pretty cloudy, but I caught some light through the clouds and wow. So I will include that in the list…

Moon – Well, the APO is supposed to be a clear, clean and crisp and the SW did not disappoint. No CA at all and razor tight outlines on craters and edges. My first thought was wow, my 2nd thought was at some point I should get a bino-viewer. I am really looking forward to more time on Luna

M36 (Pinwheel), M38(Starfish) and M37 – My eastern sky points to NYC and light pollution. My western sky is over rural NJ so it’s much darker. Starting there and scanning Auriga I found the brightest 3 open clusters easily. M37 is like someone dumped a chest of tiny  sparking jewels into the sky. In the  2350mm Evolution these targets fill the EP. In the SW they are obviously not nearly as bright, but lovely to view. The surrounding sky also frames them. “Cluster” is the perfect name.

Rosette Nebula – Whiff on nebulosity. *Maybe* I caught a little but I would not swear on it. However the handful of NGC open clusters were great to pick out so this was still a rewarding view.

M45 Pleiades – Stunning. The view in the 31mm was perfect to show the brightest stars, the whole cluster and enough of the surrounding space to frame it. If you didn’t know there was nebula you might have thought there was some haze around the brightest stars… I didn’t get any contrast but the nebulosity added to this lovely site. The overall contrast was stunning. The brighter stars were crisp, but easily seen were also the fainter stars, and while I don’t think they are any carbon stars there are a couple with a nice deep orange in the 5-6 mag range that showed nicely. This is what I mean by “nature lover.” Like looking out at the Grand Canyon… this is simply a lovely view with great optics.

Double Cluster, Owl Cluster, Caroline’s Rose, M52 – Poking around Cassiopeia is another great area to simply get lost and find stuff. The Double Cluster is a great test for optics and EPs. These clusters have tons of stars with contrasting colors and luminosity. The SW and Nagler did not disappoint. The scope really shows off great contrast. Caroline’s Rose was perfect. Its large and lacks the bright stars like the Owl Cluster, but it was lovely none the less. Pinpoint delicate stars everywhere. Really rewarding views.

M31 (Andromeda) – One of the best views I have had of this from my patio. It was cold and crisp which really helps with the light pollution and it showed this night. The core was an alien and exotic glow with the extended dust lanes showing plenty of luminosity as well. The pair of dwarf galaxies were easy finds and served to add contrast to our closest neighboring galaxy.

Orion (the whole thing) – Like most I love this constellation. Everything about it. I love the bright stars. Betelgeuse is one of my favorite stars to look at. It just so bright and pretty and I love the color. Alnitak’s companions were easy to pick out and there was plenty of nebulosity in that area with some good contrast. M42, the great Nebula (see pic) was amazing. The milky bright layers of the nebula showed lovely contrast, and the stars in the trapezium were pristine pinpricks working hard to light the whole thing up.

Sirius- Finally the dog.. I tried to split it and see if I could make out the little pup. The 7mm Delite showed the best contrast, but I didn’t get separation. It looked like a blazing star with a little pimple popping out, so it was there, but not what double star fanatics (Im not one) would call a clean split.

 

Finally when I had my fill I popped off the diag and put on the wife’s DSLR. I am not an AP guy, but I do like to get some basic photos of bright things. Getting the data is fun, but I have no stomach for the post processing or setting up auto guiding. At least not yet anyway.

In any case thanks for reading. I really look forward to many years under the sky with this scope. I was shooting for a nice mix of portability, aperture and great optics and I feel like I really made a great choice. Optically this scope far exceeds anything else I have. This is everything I could have expected. Great APO optics. Pin point stars across the entire FOV. Even the 31mmT5 showed perfect stars in 95% of the view… only at the very edges was there any softening and nothing distracting. With the rings, dovetail and diag its about 15lbs.

 

M42 Orion Nebula, 30 seconds, Nikon DF

SW M42 firstlight
 
Crappy pic of SW120ED on CGEM next to the ST120
SW120ED + ST120
 

I will post a bit more my next time out or if I get any more photos with it, but this could not have been a more rewarding first run. All in all I was observing for about 2-3 hours.

 

When researching the scope I found reviews and feedback from folks on this site invaluable. Hopefully this helps someone in the future. My experience was fantastic.

 

Cheers,
Mike


Edited by fishmike, 30 December 2016 - 01:45 PM.

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#2 daveCollins

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 01:31 PM

Mike, fantastic post for first light. It was fun to read your descriptions and it brings home for me the overall feeling that there are wonderful things to look at. I like your point of view and appreciation of the beauty of the objects that I may sometimes gloss over. Sometimes I get a bit focused on the equipment and less so on the things I am viewing. Reading your descriptions was somewhat motivational and makes me want to travel more to dark sites. I am in Washington DC and from a high rise building, my views consist mostly of binary systems and the moon. I too love the incredible wonder of the rest of the universe. Thanks for taking the time to make a thoughtful post.

 

EDIT: typo


Edited by daveCollins, 30 December 2016 - 01:31 PM.

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#3 TimN

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 01:42 PM

Nice review Mike. I have the same scope but use it mainly for imaging. I'm certainly not the best imager around but you can check my sig - astrobin account - to see what it can do.
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#4 junomike

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 01:52 PM

Can't go wrong with the 120ED's. Enjoy your new Refractor!

 

Mike


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#5 fishmike

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 02:05 PM

Mike, fantastic post for first light. It was fun to read your descriptions and it brings home for me the overall feeling that there are wonderful things to look at. I like your point of view and appreciation of the beauty of the objects that I may sometimes gloss over. Sometimes I get a bit focused on the equipment and less so on the things I am viewing. Reading your descriptions was somewhat motivational and makes me want to travel more to dark sites. I am in Washington DC and from a high rise building, my views consist mostly of binary systems and the moon. I too love the incredible wonder of the rest of the universe. Thanks for taking the time to make a thoughtful post.

 

EDIT: typo

Thanks man! I was agonizing a bit over where to go with the hobby, visual vs. AP, etc... I decided a few weeks ago to just have a session where I did nothing but observe and poke around and I was reminded why I love this hobby and the Zen like aspect of spending time outside and observing the wonders of the sky.

 

Nice review Mike. I have the same scope but use it mainly for imaging. I'm certainly not the best imager around but you can check my sig - astrobin account - to see what it can do.

Oh trust me... Any AP in my future will be really basic unguided stuff, but I was sure to check out other people's images. You are far too humble Tim! Your images are fantastic. Your PacMan with all the narrowband data is lights out man. I saw enough people were having good results using this for AP so that certainly factored.


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#6 Sard

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 02:46 PM

Fun review, thanks a lot.  I have the exact same combo you have, although my recently arrived CGEM has not been setup yet.  The SW120 is an amazing scope and a tremendous value.  My only gripe with it, and its a minor one, is that the dew shield is not retractable which makes the scope (and its accompanying case) fairly long.  Other than that, its a beauty.  

 

Do you feel like the CGEM is overkill for it or are you happy with the performance?  I know the SW120 is light enough to ride on much more modest GEM's and part of me is not looking forward to toting around that 40+ lb mount head.


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#7 rogan

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 02:53 PM

Sounds like a great scope.  Just curious, what was the problem with the Twilight II?



#8 fishmike

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 03:10 PM

Fun review, thanks a lot.  I have the exact same combo you have, although my recently arrived CGEM has not been setup yet.  The SW120 is an amazing scope and a tremendous value.  My only gripe with it, and its a minor one, is that the dew shield is not retractable which makes the scope (and its accompanying case) fairly long.  Other than that, its a beauty.  

 

Do you feel like the CGEM is overkill for it or are you happy with the performance?  I know the SW120 is light enough to ride on much more modest GEM's and part of me is not looking forward to toting around that 40+ lb mount head.

I wont lie.. If I could do it again I would get the AVX which weighs like half the CGEM. My thought was if I ever going do AP with the 9.25 SC or get an 11 inch scope the CGEM could handle any of those for AP. However its too heavy. I dont have to go very far to my patio, but I carry it out set up minus the counter weight. Well thats about 75-80lbs. I am a strong fella but that is a load.

 

Now performance is a joy. Part of the reason I picked the CGEM was using the wifi Sky Safari interface was a MUST. So I picked up the wifi add on for $100 and its a joy. It takes me no more than 10 minutes to align using my phone and the HC to make manual adjustments. Dont hesitate to PM me with questions. Its a beast to move, but once its going its wonderful. For visual the goto is perfect everytime and you can see from the pics in my gallery its steady enough to give you 30 secs unguided and nice round stars. The point is it works really well. Functionally I love it. Only knock is the weight. Its a load. Its a great looking piece of gear. A bit noisy when doing long slews but very quiet while tracking.

 

I think for the SW120 its probably overkill, but I will say on a windy night that fella isnt going to wobble at all. I cant find a single fault in the CGEM. I mean they list the weight on the website so I cant gripe about that one!



#9 fishmike

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 03:23 PM

Sounds like a great scope.  Just curious, what was the problem with the Twilight II?

Everything. The instructions were a paragraph with no visuals at all. I basically put it together as it should look and it was impossibly stiff to move regardless of how I adjusted the tension. Maybe I could DIY and lube the gears etc but I have 3 kids man... my time is precious so I just couldn't be bothered. Also the extension had a wobble on the tripod. 

 

I was bummed because the Twilight I remains one of my fav pieces of gear. Everything about it is great. I have my ST120 and ED80 with their own sets of rings and diags so I can swap out either one on that mount and be observing in minutes. I had hoped for the same with the Twilight II but it wasnt meant to be. I could totally have gotten a lemon. Its Amazon so an easy return


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#10 SteveG

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 04:32 PM

Having an oversized mount is something to be happy about, except when you're lugging it out. Nice report, and I concur, the ED 120's are one of the bargains of the century in astronomical equipment.


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#11 russell23

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 06:23 PM

Yep - The SW120ED has been one of my best purchases.


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#12 coopman

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 07:35 PM

Congrats on the new gear Mike.  Great report too.   


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#13 rogan

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 07:43 PM

Sounds like a great scope.  Just curious, what was the problem with the Twilight II?

Everything. The instructions were a paragraph with no visuals at all. I basically put it together as it should look and it was impossibly stiff to move regardless of how I adjusted the tension. Maybe I could DIY and lube the gears etc but I have 3 kids man... my time is precious so I just couldn't be bothered. Also the extension had a wobble on the tripod. 
 
I was bummed because the Twilight I remains one of my fav pieces of gear. Everything about it is great. I have my ST120 and ED80 with their own sets of rings and diags so I can swap out either one on that mount and be observing in minutes. I had hoped for the same with the Twilight II but it wasnt meant to be. I could totally have gotten a lemon. Its Amazon so an easy return


Yup, you got a lemon. I heard that some of them had issues with a stiff azimuth rotation and a lack of lubrication. Mine was a little stiff so I sanded a just a hair at that plastic collar and re-lubed with Super Lube. Now it's as smooth as silk. I can understand about not wanting to have to fix something right out of the box.
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#14 Tom_m

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 10:13 AM

Nice report!

 

I would be interested how would you compare ST120 vs 120 ED when wieving DSOs.

I am thinking about magnifications sub 80x or so (everything above its not a fair competition obviously).

Could better sharpnes and color correction of the ED make visual DSO difference at casual lowish magnification? (I am taking field flatness out of the equation here, I know ED will allways have sharper field across whole FOV).

 

I've plans to grab 120 ED for quite some time, but now I am tempted by APM 140 ED, which would also give me noticebly better DSO performance over ST120, beside all the other advatages (which would also come with 120 ED). But 140 is for the moment out of the budget, so I might stick to 120 ED plan...


Edited by Tom_m, 01 January 2017 - 10:14 AM.

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#15 rmollise

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 10:58 AM

Nice report!

 

I would be interested how would you compare ST120 vs 120 ED when wieving DSOs.

I am thinking about magnifications sub 80x or so (everything above its not a fair competition obviously).

Could better sharpnes and color correction of the ED make visual DSO difference at casual lowish magnification? (I am taking field flatness out of the equation here, I know ED will allways have sharper field across whole FOV).

 

I've plans to grab 120 ED for quite some time, but now I am tempted by APM 140 ED, which would also give me noticebly better DSO performance over ST120, beside all the other advatages (which would also come with 120 ED). But 140 is for the moment out of the budget, so I might stick to 120 ED plan...

 

120 achro versus ED? I do have the 120 ED, but don't have an equivalent aperture achromat. Close enough, though. I regularly use 4-inch (f/6.5) and 6-inch  (f/8) achromats. The answer? As far as color, it depends on you. Some people (especially us aging baby boomers) are less sensitive to purple. I see it in my 6-inch and 4-inch, but it is certainly not generally debilitating, and is only obvious around brighter stars, say brighter than 2nd magnitude (for me).

 

Yes, an ED is sharper, no way around that, but on the deep sky my achromats still produce beautiful, sharp images and pretty stars.

 

That said, if I had to choose between the 120 achromat, a fast achromat, and the ED, it would be the ED all the way, end of story, game over, zip up your fly. That doesn't mean the 120 can't please, however.

 

As far as light gathering power, yes, a 140 gives you more, but the 120 does surprisingly well for me, comparing well visually with my 150mm refractor and with 200mm SCTs. ;)


Edited by rmollise, 01 January 2017 - 11:00 AM.

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#16 Trevor N

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 11:42 AM

Very nice report. I have brought and sold several scopes over the years, achros and ed's. I agree that the ed scopes win. Deep sky is slightly better but planetary and lunar are streets ahead in the ed. Unless you use narrowband for imaging the ed also wins. Planetary contrast in an achro is definitely low in comparison. 

 

In terms of use, cool down and ability I also think the ed120 hits the spot. Always been impressed with mine.


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#17 fishmike

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 12:04 AM

Very nice report. I have brought and sold several scopes over the years, achros and ed's. I agree that the ed scopes win. Deep sky is slightly better but planetary and lunar are streets ahead in the ed. Unless you use narrowband for imaging the ed also wins. Planetary contrast in an achro is definitely low in comparison. 

 

In terms of use, cool down and ability I also think the ed120 hits the spot. Always been impressed with mine.

Yea man... I really felt like I needed the extra light grab. There is something about 120mm that is just another tier above 4 inches. I mean it obviously is, but in my observing it really *feels* like I am going deeper.

 

I am really thrilled with this so far. That being said its pretty big. No second thoughts... and for its size its wonderfully light, but its not a small scope.


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#18 fishmike

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 12:21 AM

 

Nice report!

 

I would be interested how would you compare ST120 vs 120 ED when wieving DSOs.

I am thinking about magnifications sub 80x or so (everything above its not a fair competition obviously).

Could better sharpnes and color correction of the ED make visual DSO difference at casual lowish magnification? (I am taking field flatness out of the equation here, I know ED will allways have sharper field across whole FOV).

 

I've plans to grab 120 ED for quite some time, but now I am tempted by APM 140 ED, which would also give me noticebly better DSO performance over ST120, beside all the other advatages (which would also come with 120 ED). But 140 is for the moment out of the budget, so I might stick to 120 ED plan...

 

120 achro versus ED? I do have the 120 ED, but don't have an equivalent aperture achromat. Close enough, though. I regularly use 4-inch (f/6.5) and 6-inch  (f/8) achromats. The answer? As far as color, it depends on you. Some people (especially us aging baby boomers) are less sensitive to purple. I see it in my 6-inch and 4-inch, but it is certainly not generally debilitating, and is only obvious around brighter stars, say brighter than 2nd magnitude (for me).

 

Yes, an ED is sharper, no way around that, but on the deep sky my achromats still produce beautiful, sharp images and pretty stars.

 

That said, if I had to choose between the 120 achromat, a fast achromat, and the ED, it would be the ED all the way, end of story, game over, zip up your fly. That doesn't mean the 120 can't please, however.

 

As far as light gathering power, yes, a 140 gives you more, but the 120 does surprisingly well for me, comparing well visually with my 150mm refractor and with 200mm SCTs. ;)

 

So my ST120 or ED80 get regularly swapped out on my Twilight I mount and that is my grab and go set up. I also bring the ED80 to the beach and ski houses at it makes a great birding/whale watching scope as well. I had thought I would sell that and just use the 120ED as my refractor rig but no... I just cant part with those short (600mm FL) scopes and I love that mount as well. You mentioned DSOs with the APO vs. achro and my initial impression is both are good. You dont see the gap in money spent that you do on solar system objects like planets and the moon. The ST120 only shows purple on the really brightest of stars in the sky and only those burning very white. More orange stars like Antares or Betelgeuse dont show any CA at all despite being very bright. So yes, I 100% notice a superior overall image for DSOs with the 120ED, but not by much. The ST120 is wonderful on DSOs. Just the other night with the 120ED mounted on the CGEM I took out the ST120 to the patio and just poked through every star (and of course DSOs) in Orion. This was the first time using the achro after a long session mentioned in my review so I was curious to see if I would be disappointed in the view. Exact opposite, because despite its limitations I was really impressed with that that scope COULD do.

The biggest drawback is the curved field. The 31mm Nagler isnt good in the ST120. Its just too pincusion and soft around the edges. However that EP is a wonderful experience in the superior 120ED. That being said the 24mm Panoptic in the ST120 delivered lovely pinpoint stars and you a view wide enough that no finder scope is needed.

 

So the only thing that has changed for me is I am keeping the Twilight I and ST120 and ED80 OTAs laying around. The ED80 is nicely corrected and at dark sites is a wonderful scope and works perfectly with the 31mmT5. Its just nice gear I will keep using. As for the 120ED I cant wait for more time. I have a Stelarvue mount coming for it for grab and go push to for quick views or just leave it on the CGEM for full out sessions.

 

In any case to clarify and agree with Rod (that guy seems to have some experience :bow: ) the short ST120 achro is GREAT on DSOs. Its a perfect scope for sweeping and finding and you will find a lot! 


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#19 Tom_m

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 06:27 AM

Thank you for your comments.

I agree on ST120. I had served me very well for 3 and a half years now, and I LOVE wide field views. On brighter open clusters it realy shines. With that scope I collected many happy hours of observing that I would otherwise not have had.

But over the years I got ever more bothered by it's limitations that thrilled by its advantages and besides all things said above, I would add that I even find DSO and stars becoming ever so slighty "mushy" above 80-100x magnification. (scope is well collimated, it shows perfect difraction rings at defoccused stars at 140x)

 

Knowing ST120 strenghths (its still 120mm pure refractor aperture!), I am a bit afraid I will be a bit underwhelmed with 120 ED when it comes to DSO observing. That is why I am tempted by 140ED, which again is unfortunately out of the budget for now. (also it comes without a carrying case, so besides the scope that would be one more aditional investment alongside the tube).

 

But, I still need ED refractor that would keep "grab n go" capacity of some sort, and 140 could already be overkill for that.

Also, when I plan to do some more serious DSO observing I will take 12" dob out anyway.

 

But again, 140 will have better resolution over 120 also for planetary observation. Many times I just don't want to drag out and cool the dobsonian to do a planetary obervation, only to find out that after whole process that seeing still sucks...

 

So any ED scope I'll take, it will have A LOT of use.

 

Some sweet decisions are ahead of me :D 

 

I can see a scenario of "rationalizing" and deciding now on 120 ED, only to add a bigger 140 after two years :lol: :lol:



#20 Phillip Creed

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 09:15 AM

+1.

I had a 120-ST, and as much as I liked the uber-wide fields of view, it really broke down once you got into single-digit focal-length eyepieces.  My 110mm f/6 ED doublet isn't quite as color-free as the 120SW-ED, but it's far better than an achro and it resolves globs much better than my 120-ST ever did, despite smaller aperture.

 

My only hesitation with the SW120-ED is that it's f/7.5, and would be a bit long for my AZ-4 mount.  All other considerations make it a very tempting buy.  I've seen them go used for less than $1,000 multiple times, which is insanely low for a refractor with that combination of color correction, aperture, field of view and weight.  It's still capable of getting the entire Veil Nebula in the same field of view with a 40ES-68 or 41-Pan.

Clear Skies,

Phil



#21 rmollise

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 11:24 AM

I had a 120-ST, and as much as I liked the uber-wide fields of view, it really broke down once you got into single-digit focal-length eyepieces.  My 110mm f/6 ED doublet isn't quite as color-free as the 120SW-ED, but it's far better than an achro and it resolves globs much better than my 120-ST ever did, despite smaller aperture.
 
My only hesitation with the SW120-ED is that it's f/7.5, and would be a bit long for my AZ-4 mount.  All other considerations make it a very tempting buy.  I've seen them go used for less than $1,000 multiple times, which is insanely low for a refractor with that combination of color correction, aperture, field of view and weight.  It's still capable of getting the entire Veil Nebula in the same field of view with a 40ES-68 or 41-Pan.

Clear Skies,
Phil


I've used both my 120 ED and my C102 on the AZ-4, and they are at least bearable if you keep the magnification down. For casual observing anyway. Really, though, the limit for the mount is my AR102.



#22 fishmike

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 09:28 PM

Thank you for your comments.

I agree on ST120. I had served me very well for 3 and a half years now, and I LOVE wide field views. On brighter open clusters it realy shines. With that scope I collected many happy hours of observing that I would otherwise not have had.

But over the years I got ever more bothered by it's limitations that thrilled by its advantages and besides all things said above, I would add that I even find DSO and stars becoming ever so slighty "mushy" above 80-100x magnification. (scope is well collimated, it shows perfect difraction rings at defoccused stars at 140x)

 

Knowing ST120 strenghths (its still 120mm pure refractor aperture!), I am a bit afraid I will be a bit underwhelmed with 120 ED when it comes to DSO observing. That is why I am tempted by 140ED, which again is unfortunately out of the budget for now. (also it comes without a carrying case, so besides the scope that would be one more aditional investment alongside the tube).

 

But, I still need ED refractor that would keep "grab n go" capacity of some sort, and 140 could already be overkill for that.

Also, when I plan to do some more serious DSO observing I will take 12" dob out anyway.

 

But again, 140 will have better resolution over 120 also for planetary observation. Many times I just don't want to drag out and cool the dobsonian to do a planetary obervation, only to find out that after whole process that seeing still sucks...

 

So any ED scope I'll take, it will have A LOT of use.

 

Some sweet decisions are ahead of me :D

 

I can see a scenario of "rationalizing" and deciding now on 120 ED, only to add a bigger 140 after two years :lol: :lol:

Obviously I have only had the 120ED a short time with a few good hours in, but my first impression is the 120ED and ST120 are not redundant. The ST120 really is a one trick pony. It did a good job on Saturn with the 24mm Pan and the 5x Powermate. I got cloud bands and 2 gaps in the rings... the CA around Jupiter, moon, Venus and Mars was however bad, but we kinda know that. The big thing is 600mm vs. 900mm doesn't seem like a huge difference but these are two scopes in very different size categories. The ST120 is very short and light. With the dew shield the 120ED feels closer to double the size. It really hits you when you go from viewing something on the horizon to viewing near zenith.

I am curious to see how my usage plays out. I have a lovely patio behind my house, and I love spending time out there all 4 seasons. My scope of choice is generally determined by the amount of time I foresee myself being able to spend out there. The other day I bounced out with the ST120 and in my mind just poked around Orion. I was probably at the EP for 40 minutes. The time just flies but its very Zen and meditative. I find myself picking up new gear just to make sure I get myself out there.

 

That and I want to get some more pics... I am enjoying seeing how much can be seen with 30 second exposures. Good enough to impress the office folk who dont know better.

 

 

+1.

I had a 120-ST, and as much as I liked the uber-wide fields of view, it really broke down once you got into single-digit focal-length eyepieces.  My 110mm f/6 ED doublet isn't quite as color-free as the 120SW-ED, but it's far better than an achro and it resolves globs much better than my 120-ST ever did, despite smaller aperture.

 

My only hesitation with the SW120-ED is that it's f/7.5, and would be a bit long for my AZ-4 mount.  All other considerations make it a very tempting buy.  I've seen them go used for less than $1,000 multiple times, which is insanely low for a refractor with that combination of color correction, aperture, field of view and weight.  It's still capable of getting the entire Veil Nebula in the same field of view with a 40ES-68 or 41-Pan.

Clear Skies,

Phil

 

So one of the the things that put me in an immediate state of bliss with this scope was how nice the view with the 31mm Nagler was. Immersive as advertised. I worked hard to gauge the performance and I was impressed. Nice focus through the entire FOV. Only softness was at the very edge of the borders and with an 82degree FOV you have to work hard to find it. It was a real joy to use in this scope. Didnt catch a glob yet, but the open clusters and other DSOs I mentioned above were stunning. Really stokes the nature lover in me. Its really rewarding to continue to feel awe at what I can see.

 

One of my favorite practices when on a goto mount is I turn the slew rate down pretty low and I hop from target to target using sky safari, and I pop my eye over the EP during the slew and watch the sky scroll by until my view pops onto my target. I have a lot of obstruction where I view so I tend to binge on certain areas of the sky at once... so this little practice keeps me learning areas of the sky as well.

 

Agree the ST120 is very much a one trick pony. To be fair (for context) that type of viewing is probably what I find most satisfying. I have a handful of "magical astro moments" which are simply times where I really felt extended awe. One of those was simply relaxing in the summer at my friend's place waaaay off the grid with lovely dark skies. We saw tons of goodies that weekend and I had several scopes out at various times but I think what might have been the highlight was Alberio. Just for reference with the 24mm Pan the ST120 give you 25x, 4.8 exit pupil and 2.6 degree true field of view. Alberio's colorful twins were like a couple of gleaming jewels magically framed by a background that is the heart of the summer Milky Way and Cygnus. Ah... Im rambling. I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays! 


Edited by fishmike, 02 January 2017 - 09:31 PM.

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#23 dpastern

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 11:54 PM

Congrats and thanks for the review - glad you had an awesome time with the new scope.  


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#24 denis0007dl

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 09:15 PM

Congrats on new scope, and BTW nice review  :waytogo:


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#25 fishmike

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Posted 29 January 2017 - 12:43 PM

I saw some questions about this scope popping up so I thought I would bump this... I did mention the focuser IMO is the weak link:

 

Can you elaborate on the focuser issues yours has please. I've been watching the 120ed seems like forever and want all the help I can find. Does the focuser slip with heavy EP and if yes at about what degree? Do you have trouble with it lifting EPs? Is there a tight spot on one full rotation of the course focus knob? Are there areas where the focuser seems to do nothing then catches while using it? Any and all issues you have to this point I'd really like to learn about.

Thank you very much.

 

It can certainly handle heavy EPs as the 31mmT5 is my glass of choice.
As for slippage its a mixed answer. The stock focuser relies on a tightening screw. There have been some times when I thought it was good and the focus would slip right out. Also there is just enough give that when you do tighten that screw it can push the fine focus you have achieved just out of where you wanted it.

So its workable, but clearly the weak link. Its not a show stopper like the hunk of junk my ST120 came with. I tend to go extended periods of time without switching EPs so it doesn't drive me nuts. At some point I will upgrade it I am sure but its not a priority. Im not strapped for cash, I just want to get more time with it before I make a change. I also have some more pics in the queue as well.

Another thing which may be remedied with a little DIY re-oiling, but it gets very stiff in the cold. It still turns but certainly lacks the feel that this is precision gear.

I knew there would be some of this ... none of it has been a show stopper or taken away from the experience. At that price point your getting really good optics above the price tag, but the supporting parts a clearly a step behind. What is nice about this is you can get going with a quality 120mm of APO glass. Its short/fast enough for wide fields and gives you enough aperture to pull some good details out of the moon and planets. You can easily view the whole sword at once and let me just say its a lovely view (almost 3degrees)
https://astronomy.to...|1||&messier=42


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