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need advice on picking a new 'scope

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#1 JULIE_K93

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 03:57 PM

I'm going to type this out first and hope a subject line comes from me explaining :)

I have a lot of previous experience with telescopes; my first serious scope was a meade 8" on the pier german equatorial mount in the mid/late 90s. back then, at least in the astronomy community I was part of, it seemed like scopes were broken into three categories:

1) if you wanted to split doubles/triples, or observe solar system stuff, you used a refractor

2) if you wanted to view DSO, you had a reflector (most often a dob)
3) if you wanted to do ccd photography, you had an sct...or mak-cas if you had lots of money

I'm in the market for a new scope now that I'm finally settling a lot of life stuff and have a bit of a windfall coming. and I find myself paralysed by choice. I'm more...just...general observational? I want to see everything, and I also want to do some astrophotography. I'd love to have another big newt on an eq mount...but I also don't have the energy post-a lot of health issues to move a big newt anymore. I've seen some amazing astrophotos taken through the newer 4 and 5 inch achromats and apos...both planetary and dso. what I don't know is how they are from a visual observational standpoint. I know a 5" refractor won't have the light gathering capability of an 8"+ newt, but it'll also be much more capable of being moved than the newt. and as much as I wish my budget would extend to a 6 or 8 inch cat, it's just not really in the cards...and the longer focal length is a bit of a non-starter for me right now.

any telescope is a compromise; I know this all too well. and my first scope was purchased under near optimal conditions; I lived on a farm, I had grade 1-2 skies, and an outside building where I could store it about 10 feet from where I observed, so it was always temperature acclimated from the start of each session. where I am currently planning to move, however, is the middle of an 8-9 city, where i'll be driving an hour minimum to find an observing site...but more often than not, I'll be traveling with someone, so I won't be toting/setting up on my own. you'd think that would preclude a newt as an option, but the newer ones in the f5 range have short enough tubes that i could conceivably transport one.

if you were in my position, what would you do? I don't necessarily /need/ specific models, but I also won't dissuade you, because I know y'all together have a much wider combined knowledge base than I do alone.

thanks in advance for reading and (hopefully) having some good advice and/or ideas :)



#2 DLuders

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 04:11 PM

Many telescope vendors are currently "Sold Out", due to high demand.  You could consider getting a gently-used telescope on the Cloudy Nights "Classifieds" section, and stretch your budget.  smile.gif


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#3 peta62

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 04:32 PM

You have more than enough experience and knowledge to make a decision, but I do understand why you ask. The necessity to make a decision concerning significant money and long future is sometimes crushing. DLuder's advice may help, watch classified and if you really love some offer go for it. If not, sort your thoughts and wait until stores are full again, do not compromise your decision by availability. And try to decide, what you will do the most with the scope or whether you want the one that rules them all ( although is not the best specialist in any category ). I am not sure, whether I am helping blush.gif



#4 c2m2t

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 04:36 PM

Hi Julie!

Tough decision to make, but if I take you at your word, my choice would be a 5 to 6" ED refractor. As Dluders suggested, the CN classifieds are a good place to source such a scope. Refractors, in my experience, are the most user friendly scope that usually present the fewest of issues over a live time of use. I do speak with a small bit of experience...I have a small arsenal of refractors ranging from rich field to F12, achromats, apochromatic and ED versions...a 9.25" and 12" SCT and a single 5" reflector. My refractors are my preferred scopes and for my conditions, provide the best views. I live in a dark sky region but seeing is at best average so the SCT's just don't cut is visually...but yet seem to perform well while imaging. Haven't figured that one out yet. My SW 100 Pro-ED F9 scope is my workhorse. Sky Watcher's 120mm F7 ED scope is a real prize in my opinion.There are other manufacturers that make a similar scope equally as good...likely the same lens cell. 

 

One thing with refractors is that they appear to have the highest resale rate, so a good choice now will allow you to re- sell and purchase something else as your heart desires. grin.gif Good luck with your search and purchase.

 

Cheers, Chris.



#5 JULIE_K93

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 04:41 PM

Many telescope vendors are currently "Sold Out", due to high demand.  You could consider getting a gently-used telescope on the Cloudy Nights "Classifieds" section, and stretch your budget.  smile.gif

 

oh, I know. it's been a source of mild amusement to keep looking and seeing the same backorder status everywhere!

 

I am very much fine with the idea of purchasing a used scope, and I've kept my eyes on the classified section. I'm hoping to be able to have everything in place for a purchase in the next two to three months, so I've been keeping an eye out.



#6 Jim Haley

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 04:43 PM

You have more than enough experience and knowledge to make a decision, but I do understand why you ask. The necessity to make a decision concerning significant money and long future is sometimes crushing. DLuder's advice may help, watch classified and if you really love some offer go for it. If not, sort your thoughts and wait until stores are full again, do not compromise your decision by availability. And try to decide, what you will do the most with the scope or whether you want the one that rules them all ( although is not the best specialist in any category ). I am not sure, whether I am helping blush.gif

I agree with the above post.  Also I think there is too high a "covid" premium to sink a ton of money into a scope right now.  Perhaps pick up a used dob (8-10"?) for almost nothing and use it till the prices come down on the expensive stuff.  Or just go straight to the 5" refractor others are suggesting.  I do love my 4" TAK f7.4 doublet refractor but my 8" dob usually beats it out (except for the lack of star diffraction spikes).  I find that the solid mounted TAK is about the same effort to move outside as the 8" dob.  When I put the 8" dob on a wine barrel half I like the ergonomics better than the TAK as well.    Gee I am not much help either!  ;-)


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#7 JULIE_K93

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 04:45 PM

Hi Julie!

Tough decision to make, but if I take you at your word, my choice would be a 5 to 6" ED refractor. As Dluders suggested, the CN classifieds are a good place to source such a scope. Refractors, in my experience, are the most user friendly scope that usually present the fewest of issues over a live time of use. I do speak with a small bit of experience...I have a small arsenal of refractors ranging from rich field to F12, achromats, apochromatic and ED versions...a 9.25" and 12" SCT and a single 5" reflector. My refractors are my preferred scopes and for my conditions, provide the best views. I live in a dark sky region but seeing is at best average so the SCT's just don't cut is visually...but yet seem to perform well while imaging. Haven't figured that one out yet. My SW 100 Pro-ED F9 scope is my workhorse. Sky Watcher's 120mm F7 ED scope is a real prize in my opinion.There are other manufacturers that make a similar scope equally as good...likely the same lens cell. 

 

One thing with refractors is that they appear to have the highest resale rate, so a good choice now will allow you to re- sell and purchase something else as your heart desires. grin.gif Good luck with your search and purchase.

 

Cheers, Chris.

one thing that's been a nice surprise for me, coming back to this after so long, is the prevalence of fast refractors these days. I remember seeing f10s and going 'woah, isn't that a little quick for a refractor?' the number of f5 and f6 refractors on the market today is a thing I didn't expect, and instead of making a decision easier, it's just added more confusion, heh. I've looked /at/ several, but not yet looked /through/ one. I'd like the opportunity to do that, but I'm not sure how likely that is in this current phase of life in the age of covid-19...



#8 Jim Haley

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 04:46 PM

One more thing.  Scopes are beginning to come back in stock some places (saw a 10" solid tube dob in stock recently).  But they do sell out quickly!  The 10" dob was out of stock in just a few days.  



#9 bobzeq25

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 04:54 PM

I'm going to type this out first and hope a subject line comes from me explaining smile.gif

I have a lot of previous experience with telescopes; my first serious scope was a meade 8" on the pier german equatorial mount in the mid/late 90s. back then, at least in the astronomy community I was part of, it seemed like scopes were broken into three categories:

1) if you wanted to split doubles/triples, or observe solar system stuff, you used a refractor

2) if you wanted to view DSO, you had a reflector (most often a dob)
3) if you wanted to do ccd photography, you had an sct...or mak-cas if you had lots of money

I'm in the market for a new scope now that I'm finally settling a lot of life stuff and have a bit of a windfall coming. and I find myself paralysed by choice. I'm more...just...general observational? I want to see everything, and I also want to do some astrophotography. I'd love to have another big newt on an eq mount...but I also don't have the energy post-a lot of health issues to move a big newt anymore. I've seen some amazing astrophotos taken through the newer 4 and 5 inch achromats and apos...both planetary and dso. what I don't know is how they are from a visual observational standpoint. I know a 5" refractor won't have the light gathering capability of an 8"+ newt, but it'll also be much more capable of being moved than the newt. and as much as I wish my budget would extend to a 6 or 8 inch cat, it's just not really in the cards...and the longer focal length is a bit of a non-starter for me right now.

any telescope is a compromise; I know this all too well. and my first scope was purchased under near optimal conditions; I lived on a farm, I had grade 1-2 skies, and an outside building where I could store it about 10 feet from where I observed, so it was always temperature acclimated from the start of each session. where I am currently planning to move, however, is the middle of an 8-9 city, where i'll be driving an hour minimum to find an observing site...but more often than not, I'll be traveling with someone, so I won't be toting/setting up on my own. you'd think that would preclude a newt as an option, but the newer ones in the f5 range have short enough tubes that i could conceivably transport one.

if you were in my position, what would you do? I don't necessarily /need/ specific models, but I also won't dissuade you, because I know y'all together have a much wider combined knowledge base than I do alone.

thanks in advance for reading and (hopefully) having some good advice and/or ideas smile.gif

Here's your problem.  Visual and DSO astrophotography are two _completely_ different actvities.  Especially _learning_ DSO astrophtography.  I cannot possibly say that strongly enough.  The same scope will not be good for both. 

 

Beginners have a really hard time grasping that.  It's just not intuitive.  So this happens, over and over again.

 

"I got back into astronomy about 8 years ago with the intention of buying a scope setup that could  "here it comes, you haven't heard this from every new guy"  work great for visual AND AP. So yeah, I bought a C11 CGE. Yeah I know :-).  I finally tried AP just 2 years ago, and it didn't take long to buy a 80ED doublet for AP duties."

 

There is no good compromise.  Imagine a pro photographer with two assignments, an indoor wedding in someone's home, and a pro soccer game.  For the wedding he needs a wide angle, for the game a long telephoto.  If he compromises with something in between, he'll get fired from both jobs.

 

This is like that.

 

Here's a good solution, that may be more money than you want to spend.  Scroll down to the picture of this _very_ expert astrophotographer.  That's a $500 70mm refractor on a $1200 scope.  That's correct, and he did NOT pick them because he had them lying around.  <smile>

 

https://www.astropix...bgda/index.html

 

Yeah, he spent more than twice as much on the mount.  Not a mistake.  The mount is the most important part of a DSO imaging setup.  NOT the scope or the camera.

 

Did I mention this wasn't intuitive?  <smile>

 

To that setup, you'd add a 6-8 inch Dobsonian for visual.  Puts you at about $2500 + camera.  DSO imaging is not cheap.

 

The somewhat inexpensive alternative is to FORGET about using a scope for the imaging part.  Use a camera and a lens on a camera tracker.  The setup looks like this.

 

https://www.ioptron....duct-p/3550.htm

 

But what kind of pictures could you possibly get with just a camera lens?  These.  I have excellent scopes and an excellent mount.  Still use my camera tracker sometimes.

 

https://www.astrobin...h/?q=skytracker

 

Did I mention...  <grin>

 

For the imaging part.  15 minutes spent watching this YouTube will save you much money and time.  These things happen over and over again.  Because this is just not intuitive.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=MNQU1hdqz4M

 

Those wonderful DSO images you're seeing with Mak-casses or SCTs don't just require a lot of money.  They require substantial learning, and those scopes are horrible choices to learn on.  Horrible.

 

When it comes to DSO imaging people tend to think it's all about fancy equipment.  It's nothing at all like that.

 

Dustin Johnson's clubs will not put you on the PGA tour.  <smile>

 

Camera tracker/camera/lens, is a _great_ way to get started with DSO imaging.  The book cited above is an excellent starter guide.


Edited by bobzeq25, 24 February 2021 - 05:04 PM.

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#10 sevenofnine

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 08:29 PM

Bob explained it very well. Treat the decision like two different hobbies and then you will be happy grin.gif If you really want to jump down the AP rabbit hole then pose some questions on the AP section of this forum. Or check out the many You Tube videos on the subject. Wake up call...if you don't have at least $2k to spend, don't go there. For visual I would suggest researching high quality American made Dobsonian reflectors. They win high praise on this forum. Good luck! waytogo.gif



#11 WadeH237

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 08:48 PM

I want to see everything, and I also want to do some astrophotography.

There isn't a single scope that will do everything.

 

Your mission requires multiple telescopes.  If I were in your position, I would get a Dobsonian for visual with at least 8" of aperture.  More is better.  I'm currently using a 14" truss Dobsonian for this.  I would get a small (not more than 80mm) triplet refractor for imaging work.  This would need to ride on a good quality mount, which would likely be the single most expensive piece of gear out of everything.  I would potentially also get a 4" to 5" doublet refractor for wide field visual use.  This could ride on the imaging mount when it's not taking pictures.  Or you could get a cheaper mount and dedicate it to visual use with the doublet and use the better mount for just imaging.

 

If I were to pare this down, I would drop the doublet refractor.  You could substitute a nice pair of binoculars for wide field use.  In my case, I do a lot of outreach.  Often times, I want to show someone what something looks like in binoculars, but helping a newbie find something in the sky with binos can be quite difficult.  By using a wide field refractor with a long focal length eyepiece, I can mostly replicate a binocular view through the refractor.  Then I can point it myself and have the mount track while people look through it.  Once they've seen the object in the scope, it's usually much easier for them to find it in binos later.

 

I would not ever recommend a single system for both visual and deep sky imaging.  The requirements are just too different.  You'll likely end up with a system that is less than great for both visual and imaging.



#12 JULIE_K93

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 10:24 PM

yeah...I know the two disciplines have totally different requirements as far as equipment goes. if there was one scope that did everything, we'd all have it.

I'm certainly not opposed to getting a setup just for my dslr (mount, motors, guidescope) and limiting my scope to just visual observation. it's very much an option (thank you for the examples bob! your photos are always a joy to see!), and perhaps the best one at this time, so i can focus my initial purchase around the idea of visual only, and then move toward doing photography camera only for the time being, with an eye to adding a small ed or apo to that set up in the future.

I think I'm getting a better picture of how to proceed, and I really appreciate it!



#13 Sacred Heart

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 12:08 AM

I'm going to type this out first and hope a subject line comes from me explaining smile.gif

I have a lot of previous experience with telescopes; my first serious scope was a meade 8" on the pier german equatorial mount in the mid/late 90s. back then, at least in the astronomy community I was part of, it seemed like scopes were broken into three categories:

1) if you wanted to split doubles/triples, or observe solar system stuff, you used a refractor

2) if you wanted to view DSO, you had a reflector (most often a dob)
3) if you wanted to do ccd photography, you had an sct...or mak-cas if you had lots of money

I'm in the market for a new scope now that I'm finally settling a lot of life stuff and have a bit of a windfall coming. and I find myself paralysed by choice. I'm more...just...general observational? I want to see everything, and I also want to do some astrophotography. I'd love to have another big newt on an eq mount...but I also don't have the energy post-a lot of health issues to move a big newt anymore. I've seen some amazing astrophotos taken through the newer 4 and 5 inch achromats and apos...both planetary and dso. what I don't know is how they are from a visual observational standpoint. I know a 5" refractor won't have the light gathering capability of an 8"+ newt, but it'll also be much more capable of being moved than the newt. and as much as I wish my budget would extend to a 6 or 8 inch cat, it's just not really in the cards...and the longer focal length is a bit of a non-starter for me right now.

any telescope is a compromise; I know this all too well. and my first scope was purchased under near optimal conditions; I lived on a farm, I had grade 1-2 skies, and an outside building where I could store it about 10 feet from where I observed, so it was always temperature acclimated from the start of each session. where I am currently planning to move, however, is the middle of an 8-9 city, where i'll be driving an hour minimum to find an observing site...but more often than not, I'll be traveling with someone, so I won't be toting/setting up on my own. you'd think that would preclude a newt as an option, but the newer ones in the f5 range have short enough tubes that i could conceivably transport one.

if you were in my position, what would you do? I don't necessarily /need/ specific models, but I also won't dissuade you, because I know y'all together have a much wider combined knowledge base than I do alone.

thanks in advance for reading and (hopefully) having some good advice and/or ideas smile.gif

Based on what I know now,  I own two mak's and a C14,  if you want one scope to see it all and portability, I would get the largest refractor I want to handle.    So your equipment would be, refractor, guide scope, mount, two cameras - one planetary / guide and one deep space cooled - and a laptop.   

  

Why a refractor??    If you go with a 140MM or smaller, scope is around 3' in length and relatively light and should be easy to image with.   Unless I am imaging planets or the Moon, imaging with a mak can be a job.  Deep space imaging can be done with a Mak or SCT but may require more steps in your technique.

 

A 6 inch aperture only nets so much, be it a reflector or refractor.  Figure in the obstruction and refractor is that much better.    And what you cannot see with a refractor, you can image.  Enter the guide scope and two cameras with a computer. 

 

Aperture,   can be your best friend or your worst enemy.   Living in a major city,  too many lights for a large light bucket. What about atmosphere,  I found it easier on bad nights to image with my 3.5 Mak vs the 7" mak and definitely the C14. Seeing sometimes is easier and better with the smaller aperture also.

 

I know if I were to do it again,  I would not have the Maks or the SCT  or two mounts.   I would have two maybe three refractors, a 130 or 140, a 80 or 90, and maybe a 60 for guiding if I could not guide the 90MM with the larger refractor.

 And I would only have one mount.  The mount, well you need something to hold all of this.

 

   My opinion,   Joe



#14 Mitrovarr

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 01:34 AM

What's your budget? It sounds like it might be a little limited if you can't fit a 6-8" cat into it (regardless of whether you want one).

 

I'm thinking either a 6" fast newtonian, a 5" achromat, or a 4" ED doublet.



#15 JULIE_K93

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 09:05 AM

budget wise? i think i can do up to $1200, but depending on things I may be able to stretch to 1500. when I bought my meade starsplitter in 1998 or 1999 I seem to recall paying between 800 and 900 for it, so with inflation that'd be in the 1200-1300 dollar range. I'm willing to spend that much again. I already have a dslr, so that's not an additional cost for me.



#16 Mitrovarr

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Posted 26 February 2021 - 01:45 AM

That's actually enough for a 6 or 8" SCT, although it doesn't sound like that's what you want.

 

I think I'd go with my original recommendations. 6" fast newt, 5" achro, or 4" ED doublet.

 

Also, on that budget serious AP probably isn't going to fit... certainly you can't get a kit that does both AP and visual. I mean, the least expensive mount commonly recommended for deep sky AP is $1200 by itself.




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