I know this original post is about a year and a half old. However over that time I have gotten a lot of DMs regarding this scope so I thought it beneficial to write and update. Apologies in advance if I am breaking protocol by posting to an old thread.
After a few years of spending a lot of time observing on my patio I have covered most of what I can cover in a NYC suburb. I have moved all my scopes up north to the family ski house where the skies are dark and our lawn has minimal obstruction from trees. All but the Skywatcher 120ED. The mountain house is only 2.5 hours away and perfect for weekend getaways. However I wanted to have something at home, and I if I got out there I wanted some quality views. So the 120ED stayed (but still often makes the trip with me).
At home for grab and go I leave it mounted on an Alt/Az from Stellarvue. This is a very sturdy and easy to use setup.
I have found this set up wonderful. Fully assembled at just over 40lbs its heavy and sturdy but manageable for me to walk out to my patio. If you don’t like pushing the scope you can by a handle for a few bucks.
This scope continues to be a joy to observe with.
My 31mm T5 Nagler gives 29x, 4mm exit pupil, 19mm eye relief and a FOV just under 3 degree (2.7 to be exact). Stars are tight pin pricks out the edge. It’s really a lovely view. Often I will use the 22mm Nagler for a little darker background. Both are obviously high end EPs and show stunning views. At 2 and 2.7 degrees for FOV both are great for sweeping through areas of the sky and picking out the DSOs as you go. I had a night just a couple weeks ago under the dark skies where I started scanning the MW from Scorpio/Sagittarius up and up through Cygnus to Cassiopeia and that area of lovely open clusters. The only limitation is your 120mm of aperture. No amount of contrast trumps aperture for faint objects, but brighter ones are nice too and there is where this guy really kills it.
It’s also produces lovely planetary views and where the contrast *can* trump aperture (to a point.. I get your 16 inch dob is better). One of many reasons I would never give up my 24mm Panoptic is it works so well with a barlow. My goto combo for planets and the moon is the 24mm Panoptic + 5x Powermate. This gets me to 187.5x which seems to be a real sweet spot for my area and gear. Views with this setup are really lovely. I have made out swirls on Jupiter’s cloud bands and the Cassini division is a tight black line through Saturn’s rings with some of the finer (much finer) gaps also adding contrast.
I am still some years away from more serious AP, but considering how much stuff I have (including a couple of really high end DLSRs) I like to grab some pics. You don’t need to go through auto guiding, stacking, darks, flats and constant gear tweaking to get some images worth sharing. Especially when people want to know what you are looking at when you tell them you spend the weekend in the mountains looking at stars.
Here’s a few examples of what I was able to get with 15 second exposure time, 3400 ISO on the CGEM. What’s especially good is my polar alignment is surely dirty (close enough is good enough for visual) and the scope was surely NOT perfectly balanced (gear slack). I’m guessing if I put some work into that I could get 30-60 secs unguided before things get messy...
Wonderful review! I hate when someone shows photos that were stacked from a million takes and then you are seeing something altogether different than when looking thru the scope. Yes, I give them credit, it is a wonderful skill I wished I had but it just seems so fake. I am more visual and once in a while I like to take short exposures with my Sony 5000 which only has 30 seconds exposure. I have taken some nice pics but your pic of M42 short exposure excites me! It gives me a more realistic expectation of your scope. It convinced me that I am buying a SW 120 Pro ED used!
Great job of a review. I would love it if everybody would add just one or two pics of short exposures to gibe a better idea of the scope can do!
In any case this is in response to the above post. I think it’s great for everyone with gear to try and grab some images. Here is what I got with the ED120 just a couple weeks ago in the Catskills. These are the big files, but as you can image they display wonderfully on a smaller screen when you are chatting up your hobby
I think this concludes my review. The scope isn’t perfect. Focuser works nicely but not a fan of the tightening screw. Not a show stopper for me. It’s also big and the dew shield has a lot of metal. But at this price point this is an incredibly versatile and quality piece of gear and I would give it a 5/5 stars. Nothing beats aperture but having spent a lot of time with 80/100/120mm refractors the 120mm really helps get you into a deeper class of viewing. The lunar and planetary views are stunning and without and visible CA. The scope has been durable and that is key for me. The finder scope it came with is great and incredible easy to use and find things. Most of all it’s about the optics and the contrast thick views over flat fields while using premium EPs have never disappointed.