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William Optics new ZS103 REVIEW (contributions welcome!)

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#1 timmbottoni

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Posted 20 April 2018 - 12:56 PM

Hi all,

 

This is going to be like my ZS61 Review from last year, where I go through the new ZenithStar 103, which is another new FPL53 doublet from William Optics.  It's no mystery that I am a huge fan of WO products, but I will try to be honest and objective in everything I review.

 

Here is my setup that I will be using for the review:

ZS103 standard package - FPL53 Doublet refractor (blue color trim on everything) includes the mounting rings, attached to a Vixen style dovetail, top mounted handle, and two guidescope rings sized to handle a 50mm guidescope.  The dew shield is retractable, and includes the new cover with the Bahtinov Mask built in, where by the front part unscrews to reveal the mask for focusing, or the entire cover can slide off.

 

Optional that I also have:

50mm F/4 Rotolock guidescope

NEW - 0.8X adjustable Flat 6A Flattener for photography

NEW - Camera Angle Rotator for 2.5" M63 focusers

 

Below are some unboxing pictures to see

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#2 Tyson M

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Posted 20 April 2018 - 01:04 PM

That's a beautiful looking rig. I love the color and handle. Very nice. 


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#3 timmbottoni

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Posted 20 April 2018 - 01:27 PM

About the unboxing and set up

 

  • The entire setup was double boxed, packaged very strongly and securely to handle shipping across the world, with foam and bags protecting everything nicely
  • The warranty information is there, and everything was in perfect condition
  • There aren't instructions, but from the pictures on the website it's easy to see how it goes together
  • I have a bag of 4 screws leftover that I'm not sure I know what to do with since everything is put together
  • I haven't tried the 50mm guidescope yet, but I installed it just to see how it would set up and it works (and looks) great. I hope to try some autoguiding soon and have a new QHY autoguiding camera on order so I look forward to trying it.

Other thoughts

  • The fit and finish on everything is amazing typical WO quality.  There is a lot of attention that WO pays to making things look really nice.
  • The adjustable Flat 6A is a NEW design and looks REALLY nice. Everything threads nicely together now for this setup, so there is no guessing if you have a tilt like the older push in style flatteners. I'm, really glad WO has designed these with threaded designs both from a safety standpoint and accuracy for alignment. NOTE:  It requires a 48mm T-Ring (which is larger than the old original 42mm T-Ring) and I have one from my ZS61 flattener that works perfectly.  Make sure you have the right one!  I didn't see any instructions, but I remembered from the WO website that there are pictures and a chart showing what the settings for the distance should be. MAKE sure you look at this. For the ZS103 it shows the distance as needing to be 4.6mm.  Now I honestly don't know how you could adjust it that accurately by eyeing the scale on it, but I set it and will do testing to see how well it works. Webpage is here -- https://williamoptic...nt-not-included
  • The top mounted handle and guidescope rings are amazing! This makes for a really easy to handle and set up system.  It's just super nice to work with. I don't ever want a large refractor without this now.
  • The new Bahtinov Mask that is integrated into the dew shield cover is a very clever design.  Focusing is simple with the camera now, on nearly any sort of bright star (but brighter is easier). Even Polaris works, and the star doesn't have to be exactly centered to work, from what I can tell.
  • The new Camera Angle Rotator is crazy good!  The standard rotation mechanism of the focuser is just OK, and I have often mentioned my tips for making it smoother, but this new rotator is really a huge step up.  It works by threading onto the back of the WO 2.5" focuser, or anything with M63 threads, so it should work on a variety of other focusers as well.  It has the same outbound threads and either the visual 2" end or the flattener threads nicely on to it.  It looks really nice, with a silver ridged design for easy gripping and turning, and a (laser?) etched 360 degree marking on it all the way around for nice determination of rotation amount.  But once I tried it I was really impressed.  For $138 you get a zero shift, super smooth, rotation for photographic use (or visual) that I think others charge a lot more for.  I don't know what's inside but it really works well.

Here are some more pictures of the setup

 

 

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#4 timmbottoni

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Posted 20 April 2018 - 01:48 PM

Forgot to include these two pictures from my phone (Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge) of:

  1. A view of the Canon 60D attached
  2. A picture of what the 60D screen looks like while focusing with the Bhatinov mask

 

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#5 iuseglasses

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Posted 20 April 2018 - 03:35 PM

I just received the Flat6A ii. I also thought how difficult it will be to make sub-millimeter adjustments as stated on the product page. However, I think if its close, it should work ok. I'm not sure what the tolerances are on adjusting this kind of reducer though. Looking forward to the rest of your review! Very interested in this model, especially for the price.


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#6 tonyt

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Posted 20 April 2018 - 07:35 PM

Looks like there's a new contender for best handle in the business (was Explore Scientific) though I don't see them for sale separately.


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#7 timmbottoni

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Posted 20 April 2018 - 07:39 PM

I just received the Flat6A ii. I also thought how difficult it will be to make sub-millimeter adjustments as stated on the product page. However, I think if its close, it should work ok. I'm not sure what the tolerances are on adjusting this kind of reducer though. Looking forward to the rest of your review! Very interested in this model, especially for the price.

Well it clouded up tonight so I can't do any tests on the distance of the adjustment, but based on the test pictures I shot last night it looks pretty close.  I also tried something and its a little more than one revolution per millimeter of tick on the visible etched scale so I did a half of a turn in last night (from the 5mm mark). 

 

I did the pixel peeping today and I still see a little bit of field curvature all the way out towards the edges, especially the left side so I will try some experimenting to see if moving it either way helps.  It's not bad, just slightly curved. I did more general testing and tried getting images of the Leo Triplet, and Markarians Chain and few of M51 just to see what I could see with it.  I didn't autoguide so I kept it to 30 second images at ISO 800.

 

Maybe Sunday or more likely Monday night I will get another chance to test it

 

Timm


Edited by timmbottoni, 20 April 2018 - 07:40 PM.

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#8 timmbottoni

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Posted 20 April 2018 - 07:46 PM

Here is a picture of the moon, cropped but not edited taken from the JPG shot at 1/400 sec at ISO 400.

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Edited by timmbottoni, 20 April 2018 - 07:47 PM.

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#9 gundark

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Posted 21 April 2018 - 12:28 PM

Your moon shot shows the scope to be really well corrected for a doublet! I see no (or VERY little) chromatic aberration. 



#10 Spikey131

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Posted 21 April 2018 - 10:31 PM

This was the most impressive 4” refractor at NEAF.

 

One question:  any CA on bright stars or planets?



#11 timmbottoni

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Posted 21 April 2018 - 10:47 PM

This was the most impressive 4” refractor at NEAF.

 

One question:  any CA on bright stars or planets?

Being only a doublet, there will be some CA on bright planets, but I can't form a good opinion yet because both Venus and Jupiter were too low on the horizon.  I was expecting to see significant CA, and it wasn't that bad, but there was some.  What I don't know is was some of it from the atmosphere?  I need them up higher in the sky.



#12 rustynpp

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Posted 23 April 2018 - 09:34 AM

Just picked up mine yesterday. Unfortunately someone at WO made a mistake and a blue one was shipped for me, but it's hard to complain when seeing it in person :)

 

Happy to post pics, but you won't see anything new on mine that isn't on Timm's, save the soft case (which is very nice - even nicer than expected) and the 2" rotolock (also very nice). Just gotta get it out of the city and under some starry skies!

 

To echo what Timm said, the fit and finish really is quite impressive. Everything feels and looks very solid, and was obviously designed with care. The R&P focuser is leagues beyond the crayford on my Lunt, and the handle is something every refractor over 80mm should include.

 

I did have a bit of an issue getting the dew shield to fit tightly enough to avoid sliding down when the scope is pointed upwards, but a little fussing around seems to have solved it. William has been very helpful over email, as well.


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#13 timmbottoni

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Posted 23 April 2018 - 03:23 PM

Just picked up mine yesterday. Unfortunately someone at WO made a mistake and a blue one was shipped for me, but it's hard to complain when seeing it in person smile.gif

 

Happy to post pics, but you won't see anything new on mine that isn't on Timm's, save the soft case (which is very nice - even nicer than expected) and the 2" rotolock (also very nice). Just gotta get it out of the city and under some starry skies!

 

To echo what Timm said, the fit and finish really is quite impressive. Everything feels and looks very solid, and was obviously designed with care. The R&P focuser is leagues beyond the crayford on my Lunt, and the handle is something every refractor over 80mm should include.

 

I did have a bit of an issue getting the dew shield to fit tightly enough to avoid sliding down when the scope is pointed upwards, but a little fussing around seems to have solved it. William has been very helpful over email, as well.

Hi,

 

I got a small set screw in a little plastic bag, by itself, that was labeled for the dew shield to lock it in place. It's the one in my second picture of this post with the little red label on it.  If you got one, that should work well.  If you didn't get one, I would ask William.  Just checking because maybe you already figured this out.

 

I'm hoping for clear skies on Wednesday this week, which would give me an opportunity to try some more Moon pictures.   

 

Timm

 

P.S. - Regarding the dew shield... One more thing to note, that I didn't previously mention, is that I needed to loosen up the main tube rings and slide the OTA forward to achieve balance once I added the camera, which also allows the dew shield to retract further back.  My pictures were taken before I did that.


Edited by timmbottoni, 23 April 2018 - 03:27 PM.


#14 rustynpp

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Posted 23 April 2018 - 05:09 PM

Hi,

 

I got a small set screw in a little plastic bag, by itself, that was labeled for the dew shield to lock it in place. It's the one in my second picture of this post with the little red label on it.  If you got one, that should work well.  If you didn't get one, I would ask William.  Just checking because maybe you already figured this out.

 

I'm hoping for clear skies on Wednesday this week, which would give me an opportunity to try some more Moon pictures.   

 

Timm

 

P.S. - Regarding the dew shield... One more thing to note, that I didn't previously mention, is that I needed to loosen up the main tube rings and slide the OTA forward to achieve balance once I added the camera, which also allows the dew shield to retract further back.  My pictures were taken before I did that.

Thanks Timm - I think because I picked it up directly from William at NEAF, he had already installed a lot of the little bits and pieces like that. The set screw actually does work, despite what I initially said, it just needs to be tightened down more than I thought.

 

It's odd though, as I rotate the dew shield around the tube it is quite loose in some positions and quite tight in others. Seems to work fine though.

 

Regarding the rings, my tube came with the rings already all the way at the rear of the scope. I won't be attaching any cameras so I think balancing should be easier on my Stellarvue M2.

 

Thanks!



#15 timmbottoni

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 10:31 PM

Hi all,

 

We had a nice clear night tonight, but with the moon very bright I mostly just tested different settings of the distances of the Flat 6AII.  I have to do some pixel peeping tomorrow night to see which distance really provided the sharpest stars at the edge. 

 

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a few more moon shots. I shot a bunch at different exposures both with and without the Flat 6AII, but here is a nice shot straight out of the camera, in JPG mode, shot without the flattener using the Canon 60D, at ISO 200 at an exposure of 1/800 sec.  The only thing I did was crop it and save it so it would fit within the file size guidelines

 

Timm

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#16 timmbottoni

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Posted 30 April 2018 - 02:12 PM

Hi all,

 

I was busy with other things over the weekend, and wasn't able to get out and shoot any more pictures but wanted to share a better picture of what the focusing looks like using the Canon 60D.  This was shot at ISO 1600 for 20 seconds of Arcturus.

 

Timm

 

 

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#17 timmbottoni

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Posted 30 April 2018 - 02:41 PM

As far as the Flat 6A II goes, I tested it from 0 all the way to 10 based on the scale shown and was sort of surprised to be honest.

 

At both ends the curvature was very visible, but between 3 and 6 it is pretty flat, with the best either at 4 or 5, which is what the online chart says for this model.  (4.6 according to the WO website).  I zoomed into all of the them and basically either 4 or 5 is the same from what I can see.

 

The most important thing I learned is that if you find you want to try to tweak the distance to achieve perfection its super easy and convenient to do it in the field.

 

Threading on and off is easy and smooth, and threading the adjustment in and out, and locking it is equally easy and smooth.

 

This is one at 5mm

 

Timm

 

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#18 astrofarmer

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Posted 09 June 2018 - 06:07 PM

Hi 

 

I got serial # 18008 back in late April   A very nice scope especially for the money asked

I haven't yet figured out how to rotate the focuser   I was rotating the whole tube the other night and the back gold housing started to move  I carefully moved it back again tight  I have loosened the little knob at the top but the focuser still does not rotate This isn't critical as I am quite used to turning the whole tube in the rings  Just wondering if anybody could help enlighten me as to how this works .  Fron now on I will rotate by grabbing the center of the tube only.

 

Thanks, Gary



#19 lakewoodpaper

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Posted 09 June 2018 - 06:19 PM

This model doesn't have that, you need to add the additional accessory "William Optics M63 Camera Angle Rotator". Not everyone needed this function and so they made it optional to cut down on costs. I believe the GTs still have the ability to rotate the entire focuser, but the ZS can only rotate at the level of cameras/accessories with this optional accessory.



#20 timmbottoni

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Posted 09 June 2018 - 08:58 PM

Hi 

 

I got serial # 18008 back in late April   A very nice scope especially for the money asked

I haven't yet figured out how to rotate the focuser   I was rotating the whole tube the other night and the back gold housing started to move  I carefully moved it back again tight  I have loosened the little knob at the top but the focuser still does not rotate This isn't critical as I am quite used to turning the whole tube in the rings  Just wondering if anybody could help enlighten me as to how this works .  Fron now on I will rotate by grabbing the center of the tube only.

 

Thanks, Gary

Hi Gary,

 

The focuser rotates, as you thought, and the silver thumbscrew on top is the lock for it.  There are three slotted brass screws that adjust the tension of the rotation.  They have a rounded nylon tip on them, as does the silver thumbscrew.  You can loosen them to adjust the rotation tension on the focuser. If you remove all three, and the thumbscrew that rest of the focuser will "drop" out, so don't drop it.  I took a picture to show you.

 

If you want to make the rotation smoother, you can add a thin layer of high quality grease to the groove that the screws ride in when its all assembled.  And, yes you can completely unscrew the focuser collar as well, as you found out.  

 

The rotation will never be as smooth as the optional collar that I got, which is really nice for photography since sometime you want to rotate the camera, but not the focuser, but hopefully this post and picture will reassure you that you can easily remove, and adjust this to your liking.

 

Enjoy!  

 

I have to post some more regarding my review of it.  I did do some observing, but I have had terrible luck with clouds laterly, and this weekend is nothing but rain and clouds too.

 

Timm

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#21 RandallK

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Posted 09 June 2018 - 09:22 PM

Hurry up Wednesday! I'll be waiting at the front door!


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#22 astrofarmer

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Posted 10 June 2018 - 05:05 AM

Thanks so much for your post Timm.  That clears it up very well, especially with the picture.  I was looking at Jupiter the same other night and was quite impressed with the view-not as good as my 15 reflector but still very impressive detail.  Also I noticed a much redder great red spot then in previous observing over the years

 

Thanks again for your post, clear skies especially for you, Gary


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#23 timmbottoni

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Posted 10 June 2018 - 09:23 PM

Thanks so much for your post Timm.  That clears it up very well, especially with the picture.  I was looking at Jupiter the same other night and was quite impressed with the view-not as good as my 15 reflector but still very impressive detail.  Also I noticed a much redder great red spot then in previous observing over the years

 

Thanks again for your post, clear skies especially for you, Gary

You're welcome - glad it helped. 

 

I was able to do some observing on Jupiter a couple of weeks back, and found that the false color was pretty well managed, even for a doublet.  I was looking just as the GRS was spinning out of view but I was able to see the shadow of Io as it crossed and was surprised at how clearly I could see it.

 

I tried several eyepieces I had including a 3mm, 4mm, 6mm, 7mm and several others, and all performed well.   The 3mm was really pushing it though for those optics, and my rather mediocre seeing that night, so I think the 4mm was the best choice for maximum magnification on Jupiter.

 

The only eyepiece that didn't work was my old WO zoom eyepiece, which I couldn't get in close enough to reach focus with my 2" WO diagonal.  Remember, I have the optional rotation piece so I would imagine that if I took that off it would work no problem.  I was very pleased with views of several globular and open clusters that I looked at as well.  Very nice detail and contrast for a scope of this price point.

 

I did a bit of autoguiding, to try out and learn the new QHY5L-II Mono camera I have and am really pleased with it, as well as how nicely the WO top mount handle/guide rings/ guide scope worked.  WOW, its nice to have a solid hookup for autoguiding, and the easy and convenient use of the Rotolock on the 50mm guidescope is so nice. 

 

More rain in the forecast this week for the Chicago area, and nights are so short for the next month or two, that I just hope I can find a night or two to try using it more.   Really looking forward to trying some more images with it, now that I think I can autoguide better.

 

Timm



#24 TDPerry

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Posted 22 June 2018 - 12:50 AM

I'm hoping that this telescope is as good as I've been reading about.  We had a cheap Orion back when my son was around 8 (he's 30 now) and my wife (who is into photography) and I (who have always enjoyed deep space pictures) decided we needed a telescope to combine our two joys and use them for camping out under the dark skies like we used to together.  

 

I realize it's overkill for a beginner scope,  but this is from the same guy who purchased a Martin OM-28 to learn to play the guitar on, so in the grand scheme of things the telescope wasn't as bad and I didn't have to do as much 'splaining to the wife for the telescope. flowerred.gif

I do have a habit of liking to get better toys at the front end as it reduces the number of upgrades (sure it does, ahem, guitar GAS anyone?) that occurs.

I just placed the order tonight with Agena Astro Products since I was wanting the combined package (comes with the EQ-35 tripod and mount, .8x flattener/reducer) as it was more likely to have most of what I needed on the front end that worked together - but still turns out I need to get a couple of eye pieces as I DID get the right stuff for the astrophotography apparently.  I ended up ordering the red trim and hope it is similar to the red I've gotten in for some of my motorcycle parts and not a "dull" red.

 

Now, onward to the eyepieces.  I'm assuming that 2" is the "standard" size for this one as it ships.  Suggestions for the best 2-3 eye pieces (have a 2" 40mm and a 2"  25mm WO Swan Series in my basket waiting on me to pull the trigger on them if good choice) and do I really need a 2" M-63 Rotolock and/or diagonal?

We will be primarily doing deep sky viewing and live in East Texas with not a lot of light pollution and I have access to land in the middle of almost nowhere that is VERY dark at night.

 

I'll get some photos of the pretty little thing when it comes in as she gets pulled from her cocoon of safety.  


Edited by TDPerry, 22 June 2018 - 12:53 AM.

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#25 CHASLX200

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Posted 22 June 2018 - 06:09 AM

I would like one of these scope for visual only. See how it compares to my AT102ED and a TMB 105/650.


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