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First scope search is down to three. Help?

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#1 BrentusMaximus

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 12:22 PM

After weeks of reading and posting on another forum (where there are a couple of long-time astronomers that I trust) and nearly an hour on the phone with High Point Scientific, I've narrowed our "first scope" question down to three:

 

Celestron Omni XLT 102mm Refractor on the CG-4 mount

Celestron Omni XLT 150mm Reflector on the CG-4 mount

Orion XT8 Classic

 

We will be viewing in our back yard and in the parking lot of a nearby observatory, both with similar light conditions.  I see pluses for the CG-4-mounted scopes because I can put new OTAs on the mounts if I want to experiment later, but the value of the XT8 seems tough to oversell.

I've budgeted for a basic set of eyepieces just to learn what they do and which ones I find useful along with a collimation eyepiece if necessary (the XT8 comes with a cap, the XLT 150 doesn't come with anything as far as I know). 

 

Can anyone offer any advice on these choices?  I like the ability to add a motor for tracking, but for our budget I'd rather spend the money on optics than GoTo.  Thanks!

 

P.S. We joined a local astronomy club and attended a star party with access to an ETX-125, a dob similar to the XT8, an Astromaster 114EQ, a pair of CPC 1100s (if I remember correctly), and the 24" in the observatory.  The scopes were all pointing at the moon, though, which didn't tell us much about how they'd handle other objects.


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#2 Starkid2u

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 12:41 PM

From my pov, you've already got your answer. The Orion XT8 gives you the most bang for your buck. The refractor will not help you much on deep sky objects but might be good for astrophotography use later. The 150MM is equivalent to a 6" view but I'm not a big fan of EQ mounts personally. Again, might be useful for AP later but I think it's the weakest of your choices. Go with the dob. Not a big fan of HPS, either. Get it from Orion directly; I think they come with accessories right now. Just my two cents...

 

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#3 jjt312b

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 12:56 PM

My first scope back in 1989 was a 102mm Celestron refractor, and it is still my favourite. The biggest advantage for you at this time for a refractor as your first scope, is that, since you have so much to learn about the hobby, they require very little maintenance and upkeep other than cleaning, so will free up more time for you to learn about navigating the night sky without having to think about collimating and stuff. 

That's also why you should hold up on goto at this time. Not so much for budget, but to be able to swing your scope around to different objects just by knowing where they are without resources to depend on. Good luck in your upcoming journey and hope all works out for you!



#4 BrentusMaximus

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 12:57 PM

Thanks for the replies. StarKid, did you have a crappy experience with HPS?

#5 areyoukiddingme

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 01:21 PM

I'd rule out the reflector on the equatorial mount. You'll be spinning the thing in its rings all of the time.

 

The Orion 8" is also where I'd go. Most aperture, you'll see more and it'll be easy to use.

 

The refractor is hopelessly outgunned compared to the 8" reflector.

 

If you really want to try out set ups, join a club if you can and see what others have. Then over time you can try out used stuff to see if you like it. If you don't you can sell it on for little loss.


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#6 Mike G.

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 01:21 PM

first, welcome to CloudyNights!  you seem to be on the right track but let me add something to the responses.  the 8" dob (and you may want to investigate other brands like Zhumell) will be a scope you keep for a long time.  you won't ever outgrow an 8" scope.  the EQ mounts take some learning and some setup/alignment but it's not something you can't learn in a single evening so don't be afraid of that.  tracking definitely has its advantages but there is no substitute for aperture, other than really dark skies.  for a first scope, and one you won't be unhappy with, go with the 8"dob - DSO's will blow you away and the dob will still be easily transportable and set up consists of nothing more than setting it on the ground.

 

clear skies!


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#7 garyc11

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 01:25 PM

orion has the xt8 on sale for $399 shipped you also get a barlo,red flashlight,couple books and a planisphere 


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#8 BrentusMaximus

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 01:35 PM

Keep 'em coming!  "Our" means my wife basically asked for a telescope, and as I'm the household gear nut I am happy to investigate.  I will probably dive right in to watching as well since I love the sky. 

 

I know the refractor is outgunned by a wide margin on aperture and I'm not afraid of collimating or learning/adjusting EQ mounts, but we are in Michigan and so the cooldown time may be a significant factor. 

 

If I bought the refractor today and we like what we see, I can envision a dob in the next couple of months.  If we went with the dob first, I see a refractor in the same time period.  The difference I suspect would be that if the refractor came second it would be smaller (maybe 80mm) and have much fancier glass - i.e., the dob is a cheaper upgrade later on.  I've seen some refractors that look awesome but are more than I'll spend on a first scope.  A second scope is another thing since we won't do that unless we've already justified the hobby through practice.

 

Overthinking is my real hobby.  I think.  Or at least I think I think.


Edited by BrentusMaximus, 21 April 2017 - 01:36 PM.

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#9 Spacefreak1974

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 01:43 PM

Brent

You may consider the Zhummel Z8

It comes with a better focuser, better smoother bearings, finder and a laser collimator

 

https://www.telescop...ector-telescope

 

Its made by GSO

 

Jon


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#10 tomykay12

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 01:59 PM

I own the xlt 150/cg-4 combo, 4" refractor, and a 10" dob. If I had to give up all but one, I would keep the dob. The suggestion to get a refractor on an alt/az mount later to compliment the dob is a good one. Be sure to check  craigslist as dobs show up there pretty frequently, at least in my area.


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#11 jjt312b

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 02:16 PM

BrentusMaximus, on 21 Apr 2017 - 2:35 PM, said:

Keep 'em coming!  "Our" means my wife basically asked for a telescope, and as I'm the household gear nut I am happy to investigate.  I will probably dive right in to watching as well since I love the sky. 

 

I know the refractor is outgunned by a wide margin on aperture and I'm not afraid of collimating or learning/adjusting EQ mounts, but we are in Michigan and so the cooldown time may be a significant factor. 

 

If I bought the refractor today and we like what we see, I can envision a dob in the next couple of months.  If we went with the dob first, I see a refractor in the same time period.  The difference I suspect would be that if the refractor came second it would be smaller (maybe 80mm) and have much fancier glass - i.e., the dob is a cheaper upgrade later on.  I've seen some refractors that look awesome but are more than I'll spend on a first scope.  A second scope is another thing since we won't do that unless we've already justified the hobby through practice.

 

Overthinking is my real hobby.  I think.  Or at least I think I think.

Aperture is not necessarily Deity. Just depends on what your objective is for the night. I clearly recall my first time homing in on Albireo with my first scope being a 102mm refractor. I just about fainted because of the beauty I was beholding. New nothing about it before. Just randomly checking my paper star chart for interesting objects. Still get more or less the same effect with this same telescope. When I look at it with my 8" dob, It's just kind of like..cool but not great. That's the kind of objects (not DSO) that you're probably going to be seeking out at the outset. The easier stuff. When you get the easier closer stuff down pat, that's when to consider the Newtonians and offspring for more complex DSO type searching. That's also fantastic but just take it one step at a time. And it sounds like that is your plan.



#12 dr.who

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 02:17 PM

If you are wanting to star hop then the XT8 kit they have on sale right now for $399 is a good option. It comes with what you need to do so. The recommended size for a beginner in a reflecting meaning mirror based scope is 6-8" with 8" being best.

However if you are not wanting to star hop and just want to look at objects I would suggest taking the money you have for the basic set of eyepieces and add it to your budget for a scope. I would then recommend adding the additional funds to get the Orion XT8i Intelliscope. It is a 8" dob that has a computer and encoders which let you align the telescope (it's a very easy alignment process) then the computer tells you where to push the scope to. This system will also let you star hop if you so choose since you do not have to use the computer.

I would also suggest replacing the red dot finder it comes with with a Telrad which is easier to work with in terms of star hopping or putting a star for alignment in the telescope. Lastly I would suggest a comfortable chair and the Sky and Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas. The chair is not for your rear end it is for your eyes. If you are seated comfortably you will see more. The Pocket Sky Atlas is a very good tool for star hopping as well as deciding what you want to look at objects wise based on season of the year and time.
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#13 GaryCurran

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 02:19 PM

Here's the Celestron you're talking about.

 

https://www.optcorp....cope-21088.html

 

You COULD spend a little more money and get another inch or so of aperture.

 

https://www.optcorp....cope-21090.html

 

Since both are 1000mm, the 120 will be brighter and more detail.

 

Meade also has their LX70 line on sale.

 

https://www.astronom...tor_p20344.aspx

 

Plus, if you deal at Astronomics, because you are a Cloudy Night's member, all you need to do is put in your CN Username for a variable discount.

 

Now, I have two other options for you to consider, both from Meade.  Both are substantially more expensive, but both also combine the best of the Refractor and Dobsonian.

 

The first is the Meade LX70 6" Mak Cass.

 

https://www.astronom...ain_p20345.aspx

 

This is a 6" telescope, so it bridges the gap between the light gathering of the 8" Dob with the clarity of the refractor.

 

The second would be the Meade ETX-125, which is only an inch smaller in diameter, is an Alt/Az GoTo mount.  It's very easy to set up, it's rather portable and smaller than an 8" Dob, you're not leaning down and around as you would be with a long refractor, and you'll also have some very nice views with a 5" Mak Cass.

 

Add the Meade 4000 series Plossls, and you have a rather nice, portable observing system that is much easier to tote around than any of the telescopes you've mentioned so far.

 

https://www.astronom...set_p20319.aspx

 

The one drawback is it's more expensive.



#14 BrentusMaximus

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 02:55 PM

Gary, I want to address those scopes.  I have been steered away from GoTo given my budget, and for that and other reasons I have moved away from these scopes (of course, I am happy to be convinced otherwise!):

 

4SE, 5SE, 6SE - The 4 lacks aperture and has a narrow FOV, the 5 is a big bump in price that would encourage me to go another $100 and get the 6, and the 6 with accessories is pushing the budget at $900.

 

ETX - We tried a 125 at a party and liked it, but it looks like it's got an even higher focal ratio than a 4SE.  The pricing is more in line with reality than the 6SE.  The smaller 80mm refractor I don't think would perform as well as the Omni 102 XLT.

 

SLTs - Wobbly mounts.

 

AR102/Twilight I - I was about ready to order one of these, but was warned regarding CA and advised that the Omni 102 would outperform it at a similar price point. 

 

 

I'm happy to hear alternative suggestions.


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#15 BoldAxis1967

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 03:03 PM

Just to reinforce Spacefreak1974 suggestion of going with the Zhumell 8 instead of the Orion.  The Z8 really is the better deal and if you ever want to sell the Z8, Zhumell will support the scope even with a 2nd owner while Orion is not as accommodating to second owners.The focuser and bearings are very good and the finder scope is excellent.

 

The 6 inch Omni reflector on the CG4 is also a good choice, the optics have a very good reputation for being a mass produced mirror. This small and light weight optical tube is very easy to use even though it is on a GEM.  The finder scope that came with my Omni is not the best, the optics were fine but the field of view (6x30) was much smaller compared to the finder that comes with the Z8 (8x50). As such I had to replace it with a better finder.

 

Bottom Line: I have both of these scopes and as a first scope I would say it is a close call  but I would lean towards the Z8 because of the larger aperture and the better finder scope. My vote is for the Z8.  The views are very good, you will be impressed.

 

L.


Edited by BoldAxis1967, 21 April 2017 - 03:17 PM.

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#16 BrentusMaximus

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 03:12 PM

I have heard people respond favorably to the phrase, "Start out with a small refractor," but I see a lot of votes for a dob!  For those who do recommend the dob, is this based on inch per dollar?

 

EDIT: Also, Gary mentioned the Meade refractor.  The guy at HPS didn't recommend it because he hadn't used it, but said it might be just fine.  I see Astronomics has a 4.7" LX70 for $529.  Anyone else have experience with the Meade refractors?


Edited by BrentusMaximus, 21 April 2017 - 03:17 PM.


#17 BoldAxis1967

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 03:14 PM

"I like the ability to add a motor for tracking, but for our budget I'd rather spend the money on optics than GoTo."

 

This was my thinking as well when I bought my first scope (ie. no go-to, but concentrate on the optics)  For me this was and has remained a good decision.  I find it very enjoyable navigating and learning the night sky as well as using manual tracking and nudging a dob. No batteries no fuss just me, the scope and the sky.  but, I must say that a good finder scope, like the one that comes with the Z8 and a Telrad or Rigel Quickfinder are important.

 

L.


Edited by BoldAxis1967, 21 April 2017 - 03:41 PM.

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#18 BrentusMaximus

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 03:29 PM

I know I'm also going off the rails here, but Gary also mentioned the Meade MAK.  Although slow to cool, I am intrigued by these.  It looks like Skywatcher, Meade, Celestron, and others all make 5"-6" MAK OTAs that could go easily on simple alt-az mounts.  They'd be more portable per inch than refractors, and aren't terribly expensive by comparison (a C6 is $388 at HPS).  Thoughts on these?  Was I right to drift away from them ealier?

 

If not, does that bring the 5SE back into the picture?  It's about the price of the Meade on the LX70 with GoTo.

 

Edit: spelling


Edited by BrentusMaximus, 21 April 2017 - 03:36 PM.


#19 Spacefreak1974

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 03:31 PM

If you go with the 102 mm frac on the CG4 you can get a nice tracking motor kit for $200

 

Jon



#20 Spacefreak1974

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 03:34 PM

I know I'm also going off the rails here, but Gary also mentioned the Meade MAK.  Although slow to cool, I am intrigued by these.  It looks like Skywatcher, Meade, Celestron, and others all make 5"-6" MAK OTAs that could go easily on simple alt-az mounts.  They'd be more portable per inch than refractors, and aren't terribly expensive by comparison (a C6 is $388 at HPS).  Thoughts on these?  Was I right to drift away from them ealier?

 

If not, does that bring the 5SE back into the picture?  It's about the price of the Mead on the LX70 with GoTo.

5SE is really nice as you can use regular SCT accessories on it. For a goto scope it's probably the stoutest in that price point.  The tripod is the same as the 6 and 8SE so it's pretty rock solid. 

 

I'd say if you want goto that's the ticket

 

For dobs I'd say the Zhummel Z8



#21 BoldAxis1967

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 03:36 PM

I have heard people respond favorably to the phrase, "Start out with a small refractor," but I see a lot of votes for a dob!  For those who do recommend the dob, is this based on inch per dollar?

 

EDIT: Also, Gary mentioned the Meade refractor.  The guy at HPS didn't recommend it because he hadn't used it, but said it might be just fine.  I see Astronomics has a 4.7" LX70 for $529.  Anyone else have experience with the Meade refractors?

The Omni 102 refractor has a solid reputation and the CG4 is a good mount.  I have never looked through the Omni 102 but I would imagine this would be a good choice as well.  However, it is difficult to overlook the fact that your other choices have more aperture and as you say the inch per dollar ratio is better.  With 4 inches of aperture would may want more aperture sooner than later.  Also, the finder scope with the 102 is only 6x30 straight thru. I find 8x50 or 9x50 RACIs easier to use, less neck straining. 

 

An eight inch scope can keep you busy for a long, long time, years. 

 

L.


Edited by BoldAxis1967, 21 April 2017 - 03:36 PM.


#22 BrentusMaximus

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 03:38 PM

 

I know I'm also going off the rails here, but Gary also mentioned the Meade MAK.  Although slow to cool, I am intrigued by these.  It looks like Skywatcher, Meade, Celestron, and others all make 5"-6" MAK OTAs that could go easily on simple alt-az mounts.  They'd be more portable per inch than refractors, and aren't terribly expensive by comparison (a C6 is $388 at HPS).  Thoughts on these?  Was I right to drift away from them ealier?

 

If not, does that bring the 5SE back into the picture?  It's about the price of the Mead on the LX70 with GoTo.

5SE is really nice as you can use regular SCT accessories on it. For a goto scope it's probably the stoutest in that price point.  The tripod is the same as the 6 and 8SE so it's pretty rock solid. 

 

I'd say if you want goto that's the ticket

 

For dobs I'd say the Zhummel Z8

 

I've read that the 4 and 5 share a mount and the 6 and 8 share a different mount.  Even if that's the case, are you satisfied with the strength of the mount for the 5?  I see some people get warned, but they are also saying they want to strap a DSLR onto the scope.



#23 PXR-5

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 03:46 PM

8" dob ;)

I'm no longer a fan of EQs
I owned inexpensive refractors when I was a kid, 399.99 is a steal for 8" don't look back ;)
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#24 Starkid2u

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 03:46 PM

orion has the xt8 on sale for $399 shipped you also get a barlo,red flashlight,couple books and a planisphere 

This is what I was referring to earlier. Thanks for backing me up on this one. Brentus, the answer here is pretty obvious.. Don't overthink this one. It can be fatal. As for my experience with HPS, let's just say that they left a little to be desired. With all the "shops" out there, competition is fierce. I'm an OPT (California) guy myself, even though I live in NY state. They've never failed me in 18 years and everyone on their staff knows their stuff. If the person you're speaking to doesn't know, they'll refer you to someone else in the store who does. Can't get better than that. Good luck with all this and don't forget to buy a copy of JUMBO Pocket Sky Atlas form S&T. You'll be an expert in no time with this on hand!

 

STARKID2U

 

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#25 paul hart

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 04:00 PM

I have to agree with the 8 inch dob advice, It's the most user friendly of the scopes you mentioned. A big plus factor is the dob is inherently very stable, has a nice aperture and is comfortable to view through. I also own a 3 inch refractor and a 5 inch Maksutov for quick peeks. More aperture is simply  going to show more detail and dimmer objects than smaller scopes. Example Jupiter in my 80mm shows banding. In my 127 mak cloud detail better and brighter. In my 14" WOW! Prior to this owned 8 and 10 inch dobs. Either one could be a lifetime scope. (Actually I still "officially" own the 10 but it's on loan and someday I want it back).


Edited by paul hart, 21 April 2017 - 08:21 PM.



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