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Explore Scientific FirstLight 10" Dob Build

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#1 WyattDavis

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Posted 20 March 2019 - 09:54 PM

I just built up my new Explore Scientific FirstLight 10” dob - $479 total cost with shipping included from B&H Photo. A big thanks to Dick and Hava for facilitating receipt of this scope down here in Texas!

 

It came in two boxes (base and OTA) and arrived in good condition. For those who might wonder, I could get both boxes into the back of a Jeep Wrangler Sport with the back seat removed. I did have to push the passenger seat full forward and put the OTA box in on a diagonal, but it all fit. Without the packaging, it will fit easily.

 

The scope comes with bare minimum instructions in the box and no full user’s manual. I downloaded the full manual from the ES website. The scope also has very few accessories – just a zero-power red-dot finder, a Vixen-style dovetail bar (for mounting the OTA to an equatorial mount – although I have no plans to do that), a 25mm Super Plossl eyepiece, and a “spacer sleeve” for the focuser. There is no collimation cap like you would find with an Orion XT for example – just collimation instructions that suggest looking into the focuser with no eyepiece and eyeballing it to adjusting the secondary and primary as needed… (really?).

 

Actually, I find the lack of accessories to be a plus. I have my own eyepieces, collimation tools, and finder scopes anyway and don’t need the other stuff that you often see come with an entry level scope – a 6x30 straight-through finder, more Plossl eyepieces, software downloads, collimation caps, etc. I would rather get a better price on more scope than pay for any of these items.

 

The dob base build was very easy. In fact, my scope came with the “lazy susan” portion of the base already assembled and ready to go – even though the manual provides instructions for assembling it. It did not look like the box had ever been opened, so I can only guess that this was done at the factory. All I had to do was cam-lock the uprights of the base on the rotating portion and the base was done – it took maybe 15 minutes as a leisurely pace. The tube rings were already on the OTA, so I just had to bolt on the altitude bearings and the scope was assembled.

 

Everything looked good, but there was an issue with one of the four Teflon pads that are screwed on to the top of the base/on which the altitude bearings ride. Each pad has two small Phillips wood screws attaching it to the top of the base. On one pad, one of the screws was not tightened far enough to avoid rubbing against the altitude bearing surface. This kept the OTA from moving smoothly in altitude, and the screw top was stripped so the screw couldn’t be tightened or removed. Given that, I just took a hammer and flattened the small protruding edge of the screw. After doing that, the altitude motion was smooth – problem solved. Azimuth motion was smooth with no adjustments and the ends of the altitude bearings themselves provide nice “grab handles” for getting a little leverage to move the scope in both altitude and azimuth without touching the OTA.

 

I have owned an Orion XT10 before and note a few differences already. The easy one to spot is the larger altitude bearings and the adjustable tube rings. These look like they work very well indeed on the 10” scope. My eyepieces are up in New Hampshire right now, so to simulate the focuser load of a Paracorr and Nagler 31mm eyepiece I stacked 3 pounds of dried lentils and rice on the focuser end of the OTA. With these precision astronomical devices in place (useful for viewing the Legume Nebula?), I adjusted the balance point of the OTA in the tube rings and was able to get the OTA to maintain position with no counterweighting from about 20 degrees of altitude all the way to zenith. And, there was no issue with the primary end of the OTA bottoming out/hitting the rocker box in this configuration. I could never get my XT10 Classic to do this without counterweighting the primary end of the OTA. Not bad!

 

The other big differences between this scope and the XT10 are on the secondary end:  the secondary housing, secondary adjustment screws, and spider are far beefier than the XT10’s. The secondary housing is wider – the full width of the secondary mirror – and the secondary adjustment screws themselves are heavier gauge, hand-adjustable knobs with 9/16”-wide knurled heads and are spaced farther apart. I haven’t collimated the scope yet, but it looks a lot more stable than the XT10’s secondary assembly overall. I suspect it may make collimation easier and more durable. The 2.5” Hex focuser also looks high quality and feels very smooth.

 

I’m only here in Texas for another day before heading back up to New Hampshire and won’t get the chance to first-light the FirstLight for a while. But, right out of the box, I’m very encouraged by what I have seen so far. This seems like a lot of scope for the money and a good, solid, no-frills platform.

 

IMG_0664.jpg

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#2 Dana in Philly

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Posted 21 March 2019 - 04:42 PM

So what's your process for adjusting the OTA in the rings? Move it to horizontal, loosen the clamps, slide OTA, tighten clamps?



#3 WyattDavis

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Posted 21 March 2019 - 04:55 PM

Yes - IMO, it is far too heavy to do with the OTA tilted significantly. I am going to experiment with this, but my thought is to set the balance point for the heaviest focuser load I have (Nagler 31mm + Paracorr) plus my RACI finder. Hopefully, the OTA will still not bottom out when I do that. I am then going to use one of these:

 

https://www.telescop...ht/p/130844.uts

 

to add counterweight at various points above the balance point toward the secondary end of the OTA as needed when I use lighter eyepieces/focuser loads. 



#4 25585

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Posted 22 March 2019 - 01:29 PM

My 10 F5 is the same. I chose it for its altitude bearings, OTA rotatability and positioning. Paracorr 2 + ES92 = heavy. Telrad replaced the token finder scope.

 

Focuser, collimation and internal hardware are quality. I wish there was a 12" of this solid tube line.

 

Optically, I am pleased with this scope. Its great for wide field, your 31 Nagler will go with it like peaches & cream. 


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#5 Asbytec

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Posted 23 March 2019 - 03:34 AM

Yes - IMO, it is far too heavy to do with the OTA tilted significantly. I am going to experiment with this, but my thought is to set the balance point for the heaviest focuser load I have (Nagler 31mm + Paracorr) plus my RACI finder. Hopefully, the OTA will still not bottom out when I do that. I am then going to use one of these:

 

https://www.telescop...ht/p/130844.uts

 

to add counterweight at various points above the balance point toward the secondary end of the OTA as needed when I use lighter eyepieces/focuser loads. 

Nice, Wyatt. Happy for you. I used one of these...a USB PowerBank (or similar) to add a little weight to the back (0.6kg) and power my fan almost forever. smile.gif

 

IMG20181218171804.jpg


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#6 Jomar

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Posted 26 March 2019 - 12:19 PM

 

Hi Wyatt, 
I received my ES FL 10".  My secondary mirror looked different than the photo you published.  It almost looks like someone painted the secondary mirror.  IMO If it was done at the factory, the process leaves a lot to be desired.  This is my first telescope so I’m not sure if that’s the way it is supposed to look.  I’m hoping to get a more seasoned astronomer’s opinion.  I was also wondering if you had a chance to use it and what are your impressions. I have some other photos in a cloudy nights album I created but I can't seem to upload.  If my four year old niece were here she would probably do it with two mouse clicks 

 

Resized 20190324 094312 1901

[sharedmedia=gallery:imag
[sharedmedia=gallery:images:74514]
es:74515]

 



#7 Sol Robbins

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Posted 26 March 2019 - 12:28 PM

 

 

Hi Wyatt, 
I received my ES FL 10".  My secondary mirror looked different than the photo you published.  It almost looks like someone painted the secondary mirror.  IMO If it was done at the factory, the process leaves a lot to be desired.  This is my first telescope so I’m not sure if that’s the way it is supposed to look.  I’m hoping to get a more seasoned astronomer’s opinion.  I was also wondering if you had a chance to use it and what are your impressions. I have some other photos in a cloudy nights album I created but I can't seem to upload.  If my four year old niece were here she would probably do it with two mouse clicks 

 

 

 
es:74515]

 

My 8" version has the same paint. Its ok as the secondary edges won't have as much light reflecting off of it


Edited by Sol Robbins, 26 March 2019 - 04:42 PM.

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#8 WyattDavis

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Posted 28 March 2019 - 06:26 PM

Hi Jomar, the scope is back in Texas right now so I can't take another look to see if the edges of the secondary are painted or not, but I agree with Sol that it shouldn't be an issue for performance. I haven't used the scope yet. I am taking it to the Texas Star Party at the end of April, so it will get a good workout then! Will post some impressions ASAP.

 

Until then, congrats on the ESFL 10 as your first scope! Best advice is to be sure it is collimated and that the primary mirror is reasonably cooled (set outside for something like an hour to come closer to ambient temperature) to get best performance. I noted that the collimation instructions that come with this scope are very basic and that there are no collimation tools provided. There are many threads here in CN about selecting/using basic tools to get good collimation. I suggest that you check those out.

 

Clear skies!


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#9 Asbytec

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Posted 28 March 2019 - 10:38 PM

I used a sharpie to darken the edge of my secondary as seen from the focuser. You do not want anything shiny seen from the focuser. It's not really a problem for dark skies and low light levels, but there may be a streetlight nearby. Point is, a darkened edge is a good thing. 



#10 WyattDavis

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 10:08 AM

First light:  https://www.cloudyni...t-light-at-tsp/



#11 WillR

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Posted 13 October 2021 - 12:18 PM

This topic is only 2+ years old, but before the pandemic. The ES 10" Firstlight is now $850 on the B & H website. Is it possible that telescope prices have almost doubled? Or is this something else- not the same scope? I guess we were spoiled by low prices for a long time. frown.gif



#12 Echolight

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 01:42 PM

This topic is only 2+ years old, but before the pandemic. The ES 10" Firstlight is now $850 on the B & H website. Is it possible that telescope prices have almost doubled? Or is this something else- not the same scope? I guess we were spoiled by low prices for a long time. frown.gif

It was an introductory price.


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#13 havasman

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 03:04 PM

This topic is only 2+ years old, but before the pandemic. The ES 10" Firstlight is now $850 on the B & H website. Is it possible that telescope prices have almost doubled? Or is this something else- not the same scope? I guess we were spoiled by low prices for a long time. frown.gif

IMO $850 is a good price for that capable scope. Wyatt's is the one I have used. It's a winner.



#14 Asbytec

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 05:17 AM

It was an introductory price.


Yep, I got my ES 8" for $300 intro price. A real no brainer and a great deal. Best mass produced Dob I've owned. :)

Edited by Asbytec, 22 October 2021 - 05:56 AM.

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