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Still kicking the tires

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#1 Dalew

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 10:21 PM

Dale, again.

 

As I slowly regroup and meditate on my eventual telescope choice, I am reading reviews on some of the short tube refractors that I have in mind as portable, easy to use and affordable.   But I keep reading about stripped threads and snapped off knobs, and it reminds me of the scope I just returned where the alt-az knobs kept coming apart.  

 

How much do I need to spend to be able to count on the quality to last more than a few sessions?   I was thinking that $200 for an 80mm doublet would get me a reasonably good scope.   Had been looking at the Meade Infinity 80.   But it seems the quality may be a problem.

 

If I need to spend more, I am willing to.   What other models or brands should I consider in this size?  I am also contemplating a table top 5inch reflector.  But not as enthused due to loss of land use, and the collimation etc.

 

What brands or price level will get me into  a bit more reliability?

 

Thanks,

 

Dale

 

By the way, I was out with binoculars tonight and I think I saw Casiopea (or part of it, anyway...)   in the northern sky, if I was reading Stellarium right.  It felt good!   Hubby said there were a lot of stars out last night, but I was in a plane coming home from NY and missed it.   Figures...


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#2 gnowellsct

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 11:03 PM

IMO: If you are not scrimping every penny, Vixen for the low end of the high end, Sky Watcher for the better options in the mainland China imports.   Avoid Meade.

 

In the world of binoculars you can spend $35 up to $3500.  You have to use a $500 pair for a while to understand what's wrong with the $35 options and why someone might want to spend north of $2,000.  In telescopes it's much the same way. 

 

If you want to  spend $150 on a Meade Infinity 80 you'll find out what that is all about and it's not a high price to pay to get into the game.    

 

The best thing to do is look up an astronomy club near you (on Sky and Tel web site) and go to a star party and check out the gear.   Refractors are great fun but they do pull the highest cost per mm of aperture.     Of course, one issue is that I've been around to a large number of star parties and, well, some clubs are different from other in terms of what makes it out into the field.  So you might *not* be treated to an apo refractor just because you show up at a star party.   But at least you'll get some sense as to options.

 

Look for attributes:

 

--what kind of views are offered by the instrument

--the stability of the instrument

--the ease of operation, that is, how hard is it to move the scope around

--the feel of the focuser

--the ergonomics of the instrument (do you sit or stand) 

 

and see if anything "speaks" to you.   

 

Myself, I think small aperture refractors are a perfectly good way to get into the hobby particularly for those people who just feel they gotta have a refractor.  There are a lot of such people.  

 

But if I am going to buy *bottom priced gear*, I would buy mainland imported dobs.  Refractors don't do well "cheap."  A dob can do OK cheap. But not refractors.  On bad tripods they are too jittery.  On bad mounts you point them one place, let go of the scope, and they twist back to where they were.  The least expensive are achromats (like your Meade) and show a lot of false color on bright objects.  And the focuser will have plastic knobs that might break etc.   

 

So for cheap I would think about anything from a 4.5 to 8 inch Newtonian (dob).  For a refractor that would be enjoyable to actually own and use, for land and skyprobably something like the Vixen SD81s on a portamount II.  That would be total around $1500.  And no, this is not the equivalent of the $3500 binoculars.  It's a very nice ride.   This made in China Vixen 80 on the portamount II would run around $1100.  

 

That would be as inexpensive as I would go.  I might go for the Skywatcher 80 Esprit but it would cost more, not less, than the Vixen SD81s.  The Skywatcher Evo 80 ED would, like the made in China Vixen, with a portamount, run around $1100.  There are $400 to $500 refractors out there so you could get mount and tube down to under a grand, but, as I say, below a certain point I'd rather go for the inexpensive Newtonian.  

 

Part of the pleasure of using a refractor is that it is a precision instrument.  As you cut the price of the instrument, a lot of that precision feel gets sacrificed.

 

Greg N


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#3 vdog

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 11:16 PM

The Meade Infinity 80 is no premium refractor, but it's a pretty fun scope nonetheless. My suggestion would be to get the Meade Adventure Scope, which is the same scope but costs about $60 less, and then put the savings toward a good mount.  A sturdy photographic tripod would work.  Might be a good way to try out a refractor to see how you'll like it before spending much more on one.


Edited by vdog, 21 October 2019 - 11:19 PM.

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#4 StarryHill

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 11:41 PM

$200 can get you a good telescope if you are careful. 

 

It's hard to beat the value of a small reflector and you mentioned being open to a 5" tabletop.... the AWB 130 for $200 is a great example. With reasonable care, it can last for years. Don't worry too much about collimation -- it's not hard to learn and can be done in just minutes. There are other good tabletop reflectors close to this price. You can find more info on the AWB here... https://shop.astrono...-telescope.html

 

On the other hand, an 80mm refractor on an alt-az mount with slow-motion knobs for under $200 will likely mean more corners have been cut to meet this price-point. Just a decent, low-priced alt-az mount with slow-motion knobs can cost $200. See... https://www.astronom...muth-mount.html

 

I've not used the Meade Infinity 80 but I have used the Vixen 80mm with a Porta II mount and it is close to $400. (There are sales occasionally). It's a nice setup and can last for years. If you'd prefer an 80mm refractor on an alt-az mount over a table-top reflector, I recommend you increase your budget. See https://www.mrstargu...nt-p/39952.htm 


Edited by StarryHill, 22 October 2019 - 10:50 AM.

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#5 SeattleScott

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 11:53 PM

Twilight I or GSO Skyview Deluxe are good $200 mounts. Now you just need a refractor to go on one of them. Porta is a good option too if you get a good price on a package deal. Vixen can be funny that way. With Celestron or Meade, you can buy the scope and mount separately for $2,000 or by a package deal for $1,600. Or something like that. With Vixen, buying a package deal lowers the price from $6,150 to $6,000. But sometimes they have some deals on entry level packages.

Scott
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#6 SeattleScott

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 12:06 AM

Here is one option for extreme portability
https://explorescien...iant-2221347844

Another possibility, not sure how stable mount is
https://explorescien...ts/fl-ar80640tn
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#7 JOEinCO

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 03:39 AM

Actually, I would suggest you avoid Scott's two suggestions as they both come with iterations of the Twilight Nano mount. I love my Twilight I, but the Twilight Nanos are wiggly worms. And wiggly mounts lead to great frustration in use.


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#8 sg6

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 04:03 AM

The unfortunate thing is that the 80mm achros are inexpensive becasue they cut back on the bolt on items.

I have a Skywatcher 72ED, being honest I am unimpressed, the overall feel does not inspire. My William Optics beat it hands down. The cost difference is however not insignificant. And the Skywatcher is just under £300 here, about $400.

 

I have a Bresser 102, that seems fairly soild, not overly smooth but soild. Maybe check their offering out or the ES offerings. The ES Firstlight 80/640 refractor seems interesting. However unsure of component details.

 

As said above Vixen tend to be good, again Vixen tend to cost.

 

A 2 speed focuser is nice to have, but not common, again single speed saves costs.

 

Are Meade worse then others? Not really. An 80mm achro is basically considered a scope you buy to determine if you want to carry on to better things. When decided you sell it on, give it away, throw it, keep it for occasional use.

 

You want to get a reasonable mount, they make or break a session outside. All you do with a scope is look through it, the mount is the bit you actually interface to. So one that moves well is worth considering.

 

Any clubs around you?

 

Strange thought - a classic scope? OK not really better but usually longer focal ratio and a talking point. My Tal RS 100 looks impressive. Works pretty well also. But not I suggest useful on a manual mount.

 

Do you want a scope to literally just get into it?

The ES Firstlight 80/640 still comes to mind, the 102/600 is bigger and shows more CA (guess it is a copy of the Bresser 102/600, and I have one).

 

Considering ONLY the ES Firstlights you have:

70/700 - Nice

80/640 - Nice and the one I would opt for

90/500 - Compact but will have CA, easy to use however = wide

102/600 - Bigger and heavier, has some CA, but works, I have the Bresser named one.

102/1000 - Bigger at 1000mm so little heavier, lesser CA, maximum I suggest.

 

All appear to have single speed focusers, easiest will be the 90/500. But I still favour the 80/640. The 102/600 is nice but more weight and size.

 

Ask what the focusers are, the Bresser is their hexfocus, rack and pinion type thing - nice.


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#9 Diana N

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 06:51 AM

The OP has already tried (and returned) a long-tube beginner’s refractor from Celestron, which she found too bulky and awkward.  So that option’s out.  She’s into photography, so already has a decent tripod.  So a good short-tube refractor is probably a reasonable purchase for her (although a small SCT might be another good option).


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#10 Binofrac

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 07:13 AM

When I was in starting out I found the best thing I did was to spend time going to to several astronomy gatherings to have a look at as much differing equipment as I could. I detailed my experiences and eventual equipment choices here which you may find useful- https://www.cloudyni...n-to-the-stars/


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#11 Ulmer Spatz

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 08:15 AM

As I slowly regroup and meditate on my eventual telescope choice, I am reading reviews on some of the short tube refractors that I have in mind as portable, easy to use and affordable.  But I keep reading about stripped threads and snapped off knobs, and it reminds me of the scope I just returned where the alt-az knobs kept coming apart. 

Keeping your $200 notion for a 'reasonably good scope' in mind, let me suggest the 80 mm table-top GoScope (item 10013) and the 2x Shorty barlow lens (item 08711), both from Orion telescopes. With the free shipping offered, your total would be $189.98.

 

The one-armed mount is a pleasure to use if you have something solid to put it on, like a heavy bar stool or a good photo tripod. With the included eyepieces, the GoScope is a fine wide-field sweeper, much like a pair of binoculars. Using the Shorty barlow, you'll have no problems seeing the bands on Jupiter and Saturn's rings, as well as wonderful detail on the moon. Granted, you need to ignore the false color around bright objects.

 

The single 1-star review on the Orion web site was written by a fool who opened up a defective GoScope optical tube and voided the warranty by doing that. Simply sending it back would have solved his problem.


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#12 gkarris

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 08:55 AM

How much do I need to spend to be able to count on the quality to last more than a few sessions?   I was thinking that $200 for an 80mm doublet would get me a reasonably good scope.   Had been looking at the Meade Infinity 80.   But it seems the quality may be a problem.

 

If I need to spend more, I am willing to.   What other models or brands should I consider in this size?  I am also contemplating a table top 5inch reflector.  But not as enthused due to loss of land use, and the collimation etc.

What problems are you talking about? I haven't had any...

 

The Meade Infinity 80 is no premium refractor, but it's a pretty fun scope nonetheless. My suggestion would be to get the Meade Adventure Scope, which is the same scope but costs about $60 less, and then put the savings toward a good mount.  A sturdy photographic tripod would work.  Might be a good way to try out a refractor to see how you'll like it before spending much more on one.

A Meade Adventure Scope 80 would work (throw the included tripod away). I'm finding out an expensive photo tripod isn't the greatest - hard to use in cold weather and no slo-mo controls...

 

If you want to go a step up, go with the Meade StarPro AZ series (90 or 102) (but I cannot attest how good that mount is - maybe somone else on here can):

 

https://www.highpoin...efractor-234004


Edited by gkarris, 22 October 2019 - 08:56 AM.


#13 Sky Muse

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 09:12 AM

You can observe a great many things up close with this, during the day and night...

 

https://www.astronom...tical-tube.html

 

...and it's considerably shorter that the one you returned.


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#14 gene 4181

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 09:13 AM

 Our host here , Astronomics is going to be receiving  the AT 80  's here shortly .   It uses FK 61 ED glass  which  greatly  reduces the chromatic  / color  effect    at  very reasonable  cost .  The mechanicals are very good  and   at 399  it will probably last  you a lifetime .   Put it on a Orion Versago 2  for 179  and your set  or use what ya got till you can upgrade 


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#15 dmgriff

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 09:14 AM

The OP has already tried (and returned) a long-tube beginner’s refractor from Celestron, which she found too bulky and awkward.  So that option’s out.  She’s into photography, so already has a decent tripod.  So a good short-tube refractor is probably a reasonable purchase for her (although a small SCT might be another good option).

A old school Synta ST80 f/5 achromatic refractor, built like a tank, should fit. One can be found used.

 

I am not sure which current Asian st80 comes closest mechanically (metal, no plastic) to the old ones. I think there is a Meade model which comes close, from CN posts.

 

I don't know which beginner long tube was used, but, this SkyWatcher entry level (above beginner level) 102mm f/9.8 achromatic refractor ota thru Astronomers Without borders, is a good deal at 235usd. Needs a mount....Good lunar/planetary/bright dso scope (replaces the 4.5in f/8 reflector as a good entry level scope, as all the current 4.5in f/8 now have plastic focusers, inadequate finders, inferior eps and mounts, imo).

 

Good viewing,

 

Dave


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#16 rhetfield

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 09:31 AM

 I am also contemplating a table top 5inch reflector.  But not as enthused due to loss of land use, and the collimation etc.

 

 

Not sure I know what you mean by loss of land use.  The 5" reflectors can often be mounted on different mounts.  The collapsible ones - once equipped with a short tripod - can be taken on a plane as carry-on.  They also work well for birdwatching.  For photography, collapsible truss reflectors are nice, since they can be partially collapsed to allow the focal point to move into the camera without using a barlow or other extender.

 

Do not be afraid of collimation.  It really is not hard on small reflectors.  Once you have done it a couple times, it will seem easy.  Once you are under the stars, all you do if take a bright star out of focus and see how the diffraction rings look.  On my collapsible truss reflector, I have found collimation stays pretty much put through multiple viewing sessions - even on a long road trip.  Keeping the screws reasonably tight is the key.



#17 JoeInMN

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 12:01 PM

Not sure I know what you mean by loss of land use. 

Probably means that Newtonians generally make the most awkward terrestrial spotting scopes.



#18 JOEinCO

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 12:15 PM

I know you are dying to hear my 2 cents....

 

Buy a new Meade Adventurescope (and throw away the tripod it comes with as gkarris said above). Just under $90 at Amazon or B&H or......

Buy a used Twilight I mount off the Classifieds here on CN. About $150-$175 depending on distance/shipping. 

Buy a used 32mm Plossl eyepiece off the CN Classifieds. About $25-$30. 

 

The scope is a fine introductory tool, and does a fairly good job on dimmer targets. The mount will serve you well if you upgrade or add scopes from a top-shelf 80mm APO to a C6 Schmidt-Cassegrain or many other lighter scopes. Even if you get a complex mount down the road, the Twilight I is great to have for "simple nights". And the 32mm Plossl can be a lifetime eyepiece for the wide field end of a 1.25" eyepiece kit.


Edited by JOEinCO, 22 October 2019 - 12:15 PM.

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#19 csrlice12

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 12:31 PM

My most used scope is the Vixen ED81S on a Twilight 1.  I use it more than my other scopes combined.  You can get away cheaper with a Celestron 80ED at around $400, the Vixen is around $1k, the Twilight 1 is around $200.



#20 JOEinCO

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 01:25 PM

........the Twilight 1 is around $200.

Just FYI, the Twilight I has slowly crept up. It's currently $290 new.


Edited by JOEinCO, 22 October 2019 - 01:25 PM.


#21 AaronF

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 03:39 PM

How much do I need to spend to be able to count on the quality to last more than a few sessions?   I was thinking that $200 for an 80mm doublet would get me a reasonably good scope.   Had been looking at the Meade Infinity 80.   But it seems the quality may be a problem.

 

If I need to spend more, I am willing to.   What other models or brands should I consider in this size?  I am also contemplating a table top 5inch reflector.  But not as enthused due to loss of land use, and the collimation etc.

 

What brands or price level will get me into  a bit more reliability?

In your last topic you mentioned light pollution and that you'd returned your XLT102 because it wasn't exactly "grab'n'go".

 

Is an 8" Dobsonian out of the question?

 

In your topic when you went to the star party you said you tried some of the larger Dobsonians, but wondered about comfort while viewing. You generally sit when using a Dobsonian, so no need to worry about that! It was only because it was a star party that people were standing up while observing.

 

Set-up time is very low, though you do have to consider the cool-down time, depending on your local climate. What I do is put mine outside and turn on the fan, at sunset, and that way it's acclimatized in time to use.

 

The main reason to go for the Dobsonian over anything else, however, is the cost to aperture ratio.

If you view from light pollution then you need the biggest aperture you can reasonably get.

I think that's the most important concern. It's not always possible to drive to a decent dark site. For some people it's hardly ever possible.

 

If cost is a concern, then you want as much of your money to go towards optics as is possible, because the better the mount is the more it costs.

 

For me "the biggest aperture you can reasonably get" was going to be an 8" Dobsonian, right up until the last minute when I changed my mind and got a 10" instead.

With this I can clearly see the Saturn Nebula from my balcony. With this and a filter I can see the Omega Nebula, which is invisible otherwise. With this I can see so much more from the inner city than a small refractor.

 

Yes, it's big and heavy. But only at first... strangely it gets smaller and lighter over time as I get more used to carrying it about :-D

 

If I lived in the country then I would probably have bought a small refractor first, then a big Dobsonian later as my interest increased. But in a city, for me, it's the other way around.

 

Check out your local friendly astronomy supplier's Dobsonians selection and see which one you think fits your budget and fits inside your house.



#22 vdog

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 05:09 PM

A Meade Adventure Scope 80 would work (throw the included tripod away). I'm finding out an expensive photo tripod isn't the greatest - hard to use in cold weather and no slo-mo controls...

The photo tripod works better for me because it's taller and allows me to stand, which is less awkward for sweeping purposes.  That scope is made for sweeping after all.

 

I do miss the slo-mo sometimes, and I haven't tried it yet in colder weather.   But for $90, and considering the OP already has a good photo tripod for it, the Adventure Scope seems a good bet regardless.



#23 Dalew

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 07:30 PM

I am totally gobsmacked at the willingness of so many to offer ideas and advice.  Be forewarned, I am just getting warmed up with the analysis paralysis!lol.gif  My husband can attest that I am a master at it.  Everybody raises really good points to consider.  There is still that key point of just getting started and not at all sure I will go beyond casual observing.    So trying to find a happy medium on budget.  A number of you vouched for the Adventure scope, although that  Skymax 102  is a cutie.  Both could go on a plane.   I will look at both.

 

Hard to weigh wide view vs fainter objects.  One thing that is confusing me a little.   I read many warnings about avoiding the photo tripods, so tried the alt-az slo-mo and really saw the value.   So I had been ruling out kits on a panning photo tripods, but now it seems many are endorsing using my own photo tripod.  I have a ball head that is pretty well rated for weight.  Will that be smooth enough? On the same note, looking at a table top dob mount, or any dob for that matter, how do you get slo-mo with those so that you can follow a target?  And how do they stay on target?  It must work well or there wouldn't be so many of you promoting a dob mount.   Do the table dobs move as well as the big guys?  I am quite sure that I really don't want a floor model, at least not at first.   When I have less trees and an unscreened patio to roll it onto, I might consider one as a second scope, if this silly whim becomes a beloved pastime.   But right now, I am quite sure I want a small scope.   I expect I will also want the alt-az tripod for regular use.   Thanks again for all your input.  I am really considering all the comments.

 

Thanks,

 

Dale


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#24 MalVeauX

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 09:17 PM

Hey Dale,

 

I would avoid budget entry achromatic refractors. They come with rotten focusers, 1.25" focuser at that, and are just ok at anything. The F4.X~F6 stuff is just too fast, lots of CA, not figured well, and are just low power sweepers. I say this as someone who has lots of cheap little short achromats, I love them, but I know that's a preference thing and not really a good telescope when I compare to other scopes for just a little more. When it comes to staring out, I would suggest getting a real  telescope that can do as much as possible with a quality mechanical build and the best optics you can get for your money in a portable enough package to not be a chore to use.

 

So here's what I would suggest, while a 6" F8 dob would be the cheapest way to go, it could be a chore to move. That said, for a bit more, you could build a really good portable 6" reflector on an alt-az setup with slow motion control.

 

GSO 150mm F5 reflector with 2" focuser:

 

https://agenaastro.c...lector-ota.html

 

SkyView Deluxe mount:

 

https://agenaastro.c...ltaz-mount.html

 

(alt mounts: Twilight I, Versa Go II, Porta II)

 

Yes, it's more than a cheap entry refractor. But, it's way, way more aperture, no CA, good figure, portable, on an alt-az mount with slow motion control for easy hand tracking, takes 2" eyepieces, is not a "starter" scope at all, can easily be a lifetime scope, can be good for deep sky and for solar system with enough resolution for anything you point it at.

 

Very best,


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#25 SeattleScott

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 10:49 PM

There is no need for slow motion control on a tabletop Dob. The speed at which objects drift out of view is a function of the magnification. These little scopes just don’t have enough magnification for objects to drift out of view very quickly. In order for drift to be a problem, you would need to use a barlow, which would totally mess with balance on these scopes. Bottom line, these are low-medium power scopes so slow motion control just doesn’t matter much. Of course the short tube refractors you are looking at are more or less the same situation. Don’t worry about slow mo for the low power sweepers you are looking at. You may never even use it.

Scott
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