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Orion 120ST Testing

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#101 KevH

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 10:05 AM

 

 

All of us are in this hobby for different reasons.  I cannot for the life of me understand why those who don't have the capability to test are critical of those who do.

I don't think that's the case at all... I think some feel you are being critical of people who don't have an optical bench.  The whole "Ed Ting did a product demo not a review" comes off as pretty critical.  I enjoy reading real world reports AND seeing bench test results.  I don't really need anyone defining for me what I'm viewing.  I can do that on my own.


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#102 peleuba

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 10:30 AM

I don't think that's the case at all... I think some feel you are being critical of people who don't have an optical bench. 

 

No.  I don't criticize individuals who don't have capacity or the inclination to bench test.  That ridiculous. If you can find where I specifically said that, I would love to read it, but I did not say that, nor imply it.

   

Again - we all do it for different reasons.  I respond to posts that are:  (1) blatantly untrue  (2) pass opinion off as fact  (3) I disagree with the premise (4) someone looking for advice where I have firsthand experience and can offer help.

 

Again - we are all in the hobby for diff reasons based on interests and viewing conditions, time available to dedicate etc.  

 

 

 

I don't really need anyone defining for me what I'm viewing.  I can do that on my own.

 

Not saying you feel this way but I am slowly beginning to see that most folks have a very low bar for what they consider an equipment review.  The color of the paint seems to be more important then the optical performance, smoothness of the focuser, whether vignetting occurs etc.  That's too bad.     


Edited by peleuba, 19 October 2020 - 10:39 AM.


#103 peleuba

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 10:33 AM

 

 

Ha! Well sure the price makes a difference. You don't have to mention it yourself for it to be a factor to everyone else. But it should be mentioned in a review that it is not an expensive scope. I believe Ed made us aware of that. Someone like yourself who doesn't "swim in that end of the pool" need not be bothered by his lack of a technical beatdown of the scope.

 

Technical beat down?  You are a killing me here...    And why do you have this inferiority complex when it comes to this scope?  No every inexpensive telescope performs down to its price point.  There are a few overachievers.  But you'd not know that if folks like Jeff (the OP) did not test them...   

 

Ignorance can be bliss but the feeling won't last long...

 

Anyway regarding this comment you made above:  Someone like yourself who doesn't "swim in that end of the pool" need not be bothered by his lack of a technical beatdown of the scope.  Yes, what I meant was that low power, widefield viewing is not terribly exciting to me.  But I now see where you are going with this - and as I said previously, it says more about you then it does me.  

 

To close, let me repeat this slowly...   My only contention is that product reviews are much stronger and appeal to more people if they include some type of unbiased testing of the lens/mirror/optics.

 

Cost of the telescope has no (as in zero) impact on whether its appropriate to test it out as part of a comprehensive product review.

 

Stop equating cost with status.


Edited by peleuba, 19 October 2020 - 11:06 AM.


#104 turtle86

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 11:06 AM

I don't think that's the case at all... I think some feel you are being critical of people who don't have an optical bench.  The whole "Ed Ting did a product demo not a review" comes off as pretty critical.  I enjoy reading real world reports AND seeing bench test results.  I don't really need anyone defining for me what I'm viewing.  I can do that on my own.

 

I agree.  I appreciate Jeff’s fine work in this thread, as it gives us a very useful data point.  But I also appreciate Ed’s review just as much.  While I think Ed’s review would’ve benefited from a star test (many of his reviews on his website do include star tests), I sure don’t think the absence of a star test or bench automatically renders his work as only a product demo, especially when he made the effort to point out some of the scope’s shortcomings.  To me, that alone makes it more than a mere demo.  Ed himself calls it a review, and I see no compelling reason to question his judgment on that.


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#105 Echolight

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 11:06 AM

 

 

 

 

Technical beat down?  You are a killing me here...    And why do you have this inferiority complex when it come to this scope?  No every inexpensive telescope performs down to its price point.  There are a few overachievers.  But you'd not know that if folks did not test them...   

 

Ignorance is bliss.

 

Anyway regarding this comment you made above:  Someone like yourself who doesn't "swim in that end of the pool" need not be bothered by his lack of a technical beatdown of the scope.  Yes, low power, widefield viewing is not terribly exciting to me.  But we now see where you are going with this - and as I said previously, it says more about you then it does me.  

 

If you say so.

 

The testing is interesting.

But I doubt for most who would consider the scope for what it was meant to be, and not just a test bed, that the testing will have a huge influence on whether they buy the scope or not. And I figure that's why Ed Ting didn't think it was necessary in his review.

 

There are no doubt better scopes with ED glass, of otherwise similar size and configuration. But what makes this scope appealing, other than it's bright wide field capability, for me at least, and I suspect a lot of others, most others I'd bet, is that it is not an enormous expenditure. The price is right. It is an attainable astronomical tool or toy for a much larger audience than just those who don't mind spending a grand or ten on an OTA. So no matter that the price is not a concern to some, it is an overwhelming aspect to others that would be impossible to ignore.



#106 JOEinCO

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 11:16 AM

popcorn.gif


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#107 peleuba

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 11:19 AM

The testing is interesting.

 

 

YES!!!  Very interesting. 

 

 

But I doubt for most who would consider the scope for what it was meant to be, and not just a test bed, that the testing will have a huge influence on whether they buy the scope or not. And I figure that's why Ed Ting didn't think it was necessary in his review.

 

Yes, agree with you here...   I am only making the point that I would be more excited about the "review" if it included some test/data/stuff.  As you say (most) others might not.  Ed may not know how to perform optical testing with an autocollimation flat etc.

 

 

 

 

There are no doubt better scopes with ED glass, of otherwise similar size and configuration. But what makes this scope appealing, other than it's bright wide field capability, for me at least, and I suspect a lot of others, most others I'd bet, is that it is not an enormous expenditure. The price is right. It is an attainable astronomical tool or toy for a much larger audience than just those who don't mind spending a grand or ten on an OTA. So no matter that the price is not a concern to some, it is an overwhelming aspect to others that would be impossible to ignore.

I don't know of any F/5 120mm refractors with ED glass...  Agree that the cost is VERY appealing.  And if it tests out well as Jeff demonstrated, the value proposition is quite high.  So, what's so bad about optical testing?  

 

I think we are in violent agreement?  bow.gif


Edited by peleuba, 19 October 2020 - 11:19 AM.

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#108 Echolight

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 11:28 AM

YES!!!  Very interesting. 

 

 

 

Yes, agree with you here...   I am only making the point that I would be more excited about the "review" if it included some test/data/stuff.  As you say (most) others might not.  Ed may not know how to perform optical testing with an autocollimation flat etc.

 

 

 

I don't know of any F/5 120mm refractors with ED glass...  Agree that the cost is VERY appealing.  And if it tests out well as Jeff demonstrated, the value proposition is quite high.  So, what's so bad about optical testing?  

 

I think we are in violent agreement?  bow.gif

Yeah. I think the TV is like a 5.4 or something. And TS has something, a quad with a flattener, that I believe is a bit longer also.



#109 peleuba

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 11:40 AM

Yeah. I think the TV is like a 5.4 or something. And TS has something, a quad with a flattener, that I believe is a bit longer also.

 

I totally forgot about the TeleVue NP series...



#110 LDW47

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 11:53 AM

I don't think that's the case at all... I think some feel you are being critical of people who don't have an optical bench.  The whole "Ed Ting did a product demo not a review" comes off as pretty critical.  I enjoy reading real world reports AND seeing bench test results.  I don't really need anyone defining for me what I'm viewing.  I can do that on my own.

You aren’t the only one, I thought we were all fellow astronomers doing our own thing, enjoying Ed T in our own way, commenting but not criticizing his excellent work for what it is ? 



#111 Mitrovarr

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 01:03 PM

I've always considered the NP127 the only realistic direct upgrade to the ST120. Kinda puts that price into perspective, doesn't it?

But, realistically, what are alternatives to the ST120 that are as fast as it is? I see four possibilities:

1. A 5" F/5 newtonian.
2. A Mak-newt.
3. A Schmidt-newt.
4. The NP127, or a similarly fast 5" apo.

And each one has concerns.

The newtonian is equally inexpensive. But, it's hard to make a 5" F/5 newt that uses a 2" focuser. Go 1.25" and you can't access the same wide fields and you can't use a paracorr, so it'll have a ton of coma. Use a 2" focuser and you've got a huge secondary obstruction and you will certainly want that paracorr, which might slow you down above F/5. Plus, the paracorr will more than kill your cost savings.

The mak-newt is probably the most realistic option, but they're much more expensive, bigger, and have that corrector to dew up.

A Schmidt newt from the used market is another possibility, but you've still got that corrector, plus they're really fiddly about collimation.

And of course, the NP127 has no downsides except being so expensive that it basically isn't relevant to 99%+ of observers.

#112 Jeff B

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 01:21 PM

"I never once mentioned price as a determining factor of anything. Why do you guys keep bringing it up?  Unless you think an inexpensive telescope cannot be good?   Trust me, they can - the Synta ED80 is THE perfect example of this."

 

Amen...for me.

 

I'm an engineer.  I build, tinker, and....measure.  In my audio hobby, measurement is a very handy, almost mandatory, tool set for me to have for evaluating what I'm hearing subjectively and has saved me countless days in setting up and/or, designing and building, a speaker.  

 

So it's natural for me to bring the same attitude and curiosity to my astro hobby.   I've, accordingly, developed some capacity to do some meaningful optical testing.  I've got DPAC and outdoor star testing (with both real and artificial stars) and I'm experimenting with indoor star testing for exactly the reasons Paul mentions, it's repeatable, and controllable, and at will.   

 

My testing and subjective real world visual observations with these ST120 samples were/are simply meant to compliment Ed's very nice subjective overview and evaluation of his sample (actually, it would have been nice to have his sample for testing).  I also though it a little unusual that ED made no mention of what he saw optically with his sample, like some mention of a star test, which he almost always dose during his evaluations.  So, I was curious, one was available new from Orion, it was cheap, and I had it in my grubby hands just a few days after ordering it.  I can tell you right now that if Ed had mentioned something about optical quality, I probably would not have started down this path with the 120ST.  Honestly, however, I'm rather glad Ed didn't mention optical quality as now I have two samples of what I consider to be great lower power scope.

 

Now, I typically view first then test later.  This is the exact review "model" used by some of my audio rags, for example Stereophile.  The reviewer gives an extensive, subjective evaluation of the product which is then passed off to the measurement guy for a complete set of standard measurements for that type of product.  The measurement suites are identical for that product type (amp, speaker, preamp..) regardless of the price of the product.  Price commentary usually comes in only at the front and end of the subjective and measurement evaluations.

 

But, dang, it was just sitting there, all nice and "cute", smiling at me with that nicely curved front element,  my DPAC set up was unoccupied, and the weather was lousy, so........ I flipped my preferred process.  No big deal.

 

Now, an update for the two samples.  I finally had good weather to take the second, used sample out for star testing and planetary views of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.  It was a chilly evening, very clear with rather rapidly falling temperatures.  The second sample had been outside for a couple of hours before I started the star testing on Vega.  I stared at 120x, this time with a deep green filter .  I went no further.  It looked terrible.  Sharply defined inside of focus rings but complete mush outside of focus with a very "hot" bright center.  At focus, the airy disk was "fat" and bright and the center stayed that way, hot, as I moved outside of focus.   This seemed at odds with a brief indoor star test and MUCH worse that the new sample (but still no visible astigmatism).  I could focus on Jupiter but the image was very soft with ill defined belts.  Really!?  So I took it inside and brought out the new, first sample to let it cool.  After about a half hour indoors, I looked carefully at the second sample to see if maybe it had been tinkered with and judging by the two small dabs of "nail polish" between the objective retaining ring and cell, it had not.  But that did not stop me from excavating my spanner wrench and removing the retaining ring (it was rather tight) and "O" ring under it, then dropping the cell down from around the lens.  This lens has a spacer ring between the elements rather than 3 tabs.  Everything looked just fine really but there were no orientation marks on the lens edges.  I picked up the front element and yes, it was not backwards.  So, I put it all back together, tapping the lens cell while screwing the retaining ring back on until it and the "O" ring provided a little resistance.  Shaking the cell, I could hear a faint rattle.  I then screwed the lens cell back on the tube and took it outside.  So it was "tweaked" a little.

 

By this time, the new, first sample had cooled down a bit and it performed just like it had before, very nice really, up to ~180X with the bino-viewer system and green filter, no astigmatism of coma and a rather "good" star test considering its center zone.  With the 55mm mask, the test was "perfect" and sans green filter, the airy disk was quite white.  Ok, nothing different there from before.

 

So I swapped out the new unit for the "tweaked" used one, reinstalled the Denk viewer system, slewed over to (actually up to) Vega and had a look at 120X with the green filter.  It was notably "better" than before.  A lot better.  The center was still "hot" but I could now actually see the first few outer diffraction rings outside of focus though the inner rings were smooshed together.  But the scope was still cooling a little.  After about a half hour more it had settled out, still looking notably better than "before".  Stopped to 55mm sans filter, the airy disk had a slight red tint to it, unlike the white of the new sample, but the patterns look "good".  The new sample however was still giving the superior star test and sharper views of Saturn and, especially, Mars (Jupiter has slid behind a tree).   

 

Both samples were however, complete dynamite on the Pleiades with both my Edmund 28mm Plossls and APM 24mm UFF, both in mono and bino-vision. The two samples were indistinguishable from each other.  No surprise there. 

 

This all leads me to conclude that the retaining on the older, used sample was just too tight for the falling ambient temperatures that night.  But not for the new sample...and I'm resisting the urge to "tweak" that sample too.  Subsequent DPAC testing shows the used sample behaves the same as it did before the "tweak".  Go figure.

 

The fate of the used sample is a good one as it will be refinished white then installed on the 8.75" F12 achromat as a low power, wide FOV "finder" scope, a mission it is extremely well suited for.  I'm keeping the new sample as I find it to be a two trick pony.  The first trick is being a truly excellent low power scope that is actually rather good at higher power and full aperture.  The second trick is that at 80mm aperture, it is an excellent 80mm F7.5 achromat, capable of sharp high power views (for an 80mm aperture anyway).  

 

Jeff


Edited by Jeff B, 19 October 2020 - 01:25 PM.

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#113 LDW47

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 01:28 PM

I've always considered the NP127 the only realistic direct upgrade to the ST120. Kinda puts that price into perspective, doesn't it?

But, realistically, what are alternatives to the ST120 that are as fast as it is? I see four possibilities:

1. A 5" F/5 newtonian.
2. A Mak-newt.
3. A Schmidt-newt.
4. The NP127, or a similarly fast 5" apo.

And each one has concerns.

The newtonian is equally inexpensive. But, it's hard to make a 5" F/5 newt that uses a 2" focuser. Go 1.25" and you can't access the same wide fields and you can't use a paracorr, so it'll have a ton of coma. Use a 2" focuser and you've got a huge secondary obstruction and you will certainly want that paracorr, which might slow you down above F/5. Plus, the paracorr will more than kill your cost savings.

The mak-newt is probably the most realistic option, but they're much more expensive, bigger, and have that corrector to dew up.

A Schmidt newt from the used market is another possibility, but you've still got that corrector, plus they're really fiddly about collimation.

And of course, the NP127 has no downsides except being so expensive that it basically isn't relevant to 99%+ of observers.

The last sentence says it all !



#114 LDW47

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 01:41 PM

"I never once mentioned price as a determining factor of anything. Why do you guys keep bringing it up?  Unless you think an inexpensive telescope cannot be good?   Trust me, they can - the Synta ED80 is THE perfect example of this."

 

Amen...for me.

 

I'm an engineer.  I build, tinker, and....measure.  In my audio hobby, measurement is a very handy, almost mandatory, tool set for me to have for evaluating what I'm hearing subjectively and has saved me countless days in setting up and/or, designing and building, a speaker.  

 

So it's natural for me to bring the same attitude and curiosity to my astro hobby.   I've, accordingly, developed some capacity to do some meaningful optical testing.  I've got DPAC and outdoor star testing (with both real and artificial stars) and I'm experimenting with indoor star testing for exactly the reasons Paul mentions, it's repeatable, and controllable, and at will.   

 

My testing and subjective real world visual observations with these ST120 samples were/are simply meant to compliment Ed's very nice subjective overview and evaluation of his sample (actually, it would have been nice to have his sample for testing).  I also though it a little unusual that ED made no mention of what he saw optically with his sample, like some mention of a star test, which he almost always dose during his evaluations.  So, I was curious, one was available new from Orion, it was cheap, and I had it in my grubby hands just a few days after ordering it.  I can tell you right now that if Ed had mentioned something about optical quality, I probably would not have started down this path with the 120ST.  Honestly, however, I'm rather glad Ed didn't mention optical quality as now I have two samples of what I consider to be great lower power scope.

 

Now, I typically view first then test later.  This is the exact review "model" used by some of my audio rags, for example Stereophile.  The reviewer gives an extensive, subjective evaluation of the product which is then passed off to the measurement guy for a complete set of standard measurements for that type of product.  The measurement suites are identical for that product type (amp, speaker, preamp..) regardless of the price of the product.  Price commentary usually comes in only at the front and end of the subjective and measurement evaluations.

 

But, dang, it was just sitting there, all nice and "cute", smiling at me with that nicely curved front element,  my DPAC set up was unoccupied, and the weather was lousy, so........ I flipped my preferred process.  No big deal.

 

Now, an update for the two samples.  I finally had good weather to take the second, used sample out for star testing and planetary views of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.  It was a chilly evening, very clear with rather rapidly falling temperatures.  The second sample had been outside for a couple of hours before I started the star testing on Vega.  I stared at 120x, this time with a deep green filter .  I went no further.  It looked terrible.  Sharply defined inside of focus rings but complete mush outside of focus with a very "hot" bright center.  At focus, the airy disk was "fat" and bright and the center stayed that way, hot, as I moved outside of focus.   This seemed at odds with a brief indoor star test and MUCH worse that the new sample (but still no visible astigmatism).  I could focus on Jupiter but the image was very soft with ill defined belts.  Really!?  So I took it inside and brought out the new, first sample to let it cool.  After about a half hour indoors, I looked carefully at the second sample to see if maybe it had been tinkered with and judging by the two small dabs of "nail polish" between the objective retaining ring and cell, it had not.  But that did not stop me from excavating my spanner wrench and removing the retaining ring (it was rather tight) and "O" ring under it, then dropping the cell down from around the lens.  This lens has a spacer ring between the elements rather than 3 tabs.  Everything looked just fine really but there were no orientation marks on the lens edges.  I picked up the front element and yes, it was not backwards.  So, I put it all back together, tapping the lens cell while screwing the retaining ring back on until it and the "O" ring provided a little resistance.  Shaking the cell, I could hear a faint rattle.  I then screwed the lens cell back on the tube and took it outside.  So it was "tweaked" a little.

 

By this time, the new, first sample had cooled down a bit and it performed just like it had before, very nice really, up to ~180X with the bino-viewer system and green filter, no astigmatism of coma and a rather "good" star test considering its center zone.  With the 55mm mask, the test was "perfect" and sans green filter, the airy disk was quite white.  Ok, nothing different there from before.

 

So I swapped out the new unit for the "tweaked" used one, reinstalled the Denk viewer system, slewed over to (actually up to) Vega and had a look at 120X with the green filter.  It was notably "better" than before.  A lot better.  The center was still "hot" but I could now actually see the first few outer diffraction rings outside of focus though the inner rings were smooshed together.  But the scope was still cooling a little.  After about a half hour more it had settled out, still looking notably better than "before".  Stopped to 55mm sans filter, the airy disk had a slight red tint to it, unlike the white of the new sample, but the patterns look "good".  The new sample however was still giving the superior star test and sharper views of Saturn and, especially, Mars (Jupiter has slid behind a tree).   

 

Both samples were however, complete dynamite on the Pleiades with both my Edmund 28mm Plossls and APM 24mm UFF, both in mono and bino-vision. The two samples were indistinguishable from each other.  No surprise there. 

 

This all leads me to conclude that the retaining on the older, used sample was just too tight for the falling ambient temperatures that night.  But not for the new sample...and I'm resisting the urge to "tweak" that sample too.  Subsequent DPAC testing shows the used sample behaves the same as it did before the "tweak".  Go figure.

 

The fate of the used sample is a good one as it will be refinished white then installed on the 8.75" F12 achromat as a low power, wide FOV "finder" scope, a mission it is extremely well suited for.  I'm keeping the new sample as I find it to be a two trick pony.  The first trick is being a truly excellent low power scope that is actually rather good at higher power and full aperture.  The second trick is that at 80mm aperture, it is an excellent 80mm F7.5 achromat, capable of sharp high power views (for an 80mm aperture anyway).  

 

Jeff

This is a great thread but in layman's terms what does this all mean, should mean to the 100’s of astronomers that own and love that scope or to the hundreds more that are or will buy that scope ? Just curious as I am sure there are many more ? Its a lot to digest when those black skizes are calling for your 120mm !  PS: I don’t think many cared what Ed saw visually, in detail, its what we have seen and will see that counts ! 


Edited by LDW47, 19 October 2020 - 01:44 PM.


#115 RLK1

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 03:18 PM

Jeff B: "This all leads me to conclude that the retaining on the older, used sample was just too tight for the falling ambient temperatures that night.  But not for the new sample...and I'm resisting the urge to "tweak" that sample too.  Subsequent DPAC testing shows the used sample behaves the same as it did before the "tweak".  Go figure."

That doesn't surprise me at all.

So, again, at the end of the day, the off the shelf stock scope meets the design parameters as stated within the Orion catalog. And since you've previously stated that you were "humbled" by its performance, I would take that to mean you would agree with Ed Ting that "it's good". I note Ed Ting stated had he observed various objects thru his sample, such as splitting double stars, observing Jupiter, and looking at various DSOs. Given his experience in the field with many different scopes, I'd give him his due in noting whether or not something a problem optically and noting it accordingly. Granted,his review doesn't say he did a star test or used a green filter but I think it's evident that your experience with the optical quality of the unit tends to parallel his. In other words, Ed's review is pretty much spot on...


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