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Budget backpack telescope

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#1 druotolo

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 05:36 PM

Ciao everybody,

 

a beginner here writing his first post.

 

I'm searching for a budget "backpack telescope", meaning a cheap telescope that I can take with me while hiking or travelling with nothing but my backpack.

I've put my eyes on these ones:

 

- Zhumell Z100: really good one but I have some doubt about its portability in a backpack, personally I think a refractor will be more suitable, furthermore this is not-collimable, and since I will use it as travel telescope it will easy take some bump and unrecoverably loose its collimation

- Meade LightBridge Mini 114 Reflector: according to several websites this seems the best one but, again, I have doubt on reflector's portability, here even more than before since this one is bigger than the Z100

- Meade Infinity 80mm refractor: this one looks pretty portable to me, but it is my understanding that it is not really a versatile telescope since it is more suitable for DSO observation

 

My idea is that a refractor is more portable than a reflector (portable == backpack portable), but refractor are more expensive and in general less versatile than reflector, furthermore there are lots of "toy refractors" out there so I should be very careful when choosing one. What do you think, am I right?

 

Any other suggestion will be really appreciated.

 

P.S.: I live in Europe and by cheap I mean max 150€ (180$, but I've seen some brands like Orion doing a 1-to-1 conversion, i.e. 150$ --> 150€ , and more often than I thought! So I think it is safer to assume 150$ as upper limit)

 

Thanks in advance,

ciao!


Edited by druotolo, 01 March 2021 - 05:42 PM.


#2 peta62

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 05:46 PM

Hi, I use Maksutov Casegrain for backpack carrying, Contra - narrow view, plus - compact, usable for terrestrial views.



#3 Hexley  Happy Birthday!

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 05:59 PM

You might just consider some Canon image stabilized binoculars, I’m partial to the 15x50s. They weigh 2 pounds and some change, and they’re like having a super wide 2” eyepiece going. Fits all of the Pleiades in the view, the 3 belt stars in Orion and resolves good detail of the nebula too. It won’t do Saturn or Jupiter all that well but they’re a lot smaller than a proper telescope. Think of them as two small refractors smile.gif The 10x30s are even smaller but not quite as good for astronomy, though half the price. 


Edited by Hexley, 01 March 2021 - 06:01 PM.

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#4 cookjaiii

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 06:29 PM

Here is an option.  The same scope is called the Skywatcher Heritage 130 in Europe.

 

https://www.cloudyni...ders/?p=8148654

 

There wouldn't be much room for anything else though.


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#5 havasman

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 06:40 PM

I'd suggest binoculars are a better option than any of the scopes you're considering. But of course no image stabilized binoculars are within your budget. That's OK. Regular 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars are not difficult to hold and very pleasant to use for observing.


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#6 PNW

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 06:40 PM

I really like my Infinity 102. It's really versatile, lightweight and great for terrestrial during the day. It does OK on planets. I've seen the rings of Saturn, Moons of Jupiter, and craters on the Moon.  But where it shines is in wide field sky sweeping. They even make a soft carrying bag that everything fits in. Now that I've blown your budget, get the Infinity 80.


Edited by PNW, 01 March 2021 - 06:43 PM.

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#7 Jethro7

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 07:10 PM

Hello Drutolo,

You probably will not like my option. I would keep saving up till I could afford a decent set up you can get a decent scope for pretty cheap used but a suitable mount is the hard part. I dont know what your acceptable weight limits are. I used to pack a scope rig that weighed in at 23 Kg's in the past but have cut that down to a very comfortable 7.27 Kg's. Unfortunately that was expensive. But the mount and tripod are the most important part of your set up. If you have a bulky wobbly mount your backpacking and viewing experience will be awfully frustrating. My set up consist of a Astrotech 60ED, Stellarvue M2C mount and a Gitzo series 5 tripod. My set up cost me about 1600.00 €. I simply could not find a cheaper way into this set up that suited me. This was just to get a decent scope and a mount that was very sturdy, very light and most importantly compact. These are the qualities needed for a backpacking scope rig that can be enjoyed in its use. With that being said if you do not wish to go beyond your budget. The alternative set up I use a good bit is a good pair of 10 X 50 binoculars. These days you can find a decent set for your budget and they will only weigh about 1 Kg.

 

HAPPY SKIES AND KEEP LOOKING UP Jethro


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#8 sevenofnine

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 07:13 PM

Backpacking, astronomy telescopes and cheap don't go together. None of the scopes you have selected are suitable. The best thing would be to get a pair of light weight binoculars suitable for viewing the night sky. Oberwerk.com offers a LW series that could work. For astronomy, the objectives should be large or they will be too dim for a night sky view. Consider the 8x56 or 9x60 LW and a good introductory astronomy book like T. Dickinson's "NightWatch." Best of luck to you and your journeys! watching.gif


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#9 shohin

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 10:24 PM

Why do you think the short tube 80 refractor is not versatile?   Refractors can be used for sky as well as land viewing.   Have you looked at the Meade Adventure Scope 80 or the Celestron Travel Scope 80?  Those already come with backpacks.



#10 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 10:31 PM

I’d stretch your budget a bit and get the Orion go scope: https://www.telescop...60/p/102008.uts

 

or a pair of Celestron Cometron 7x50s, which are $35 and lightweight for hiking


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#11 rhetfield

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 10:36 PM

Here is an option. The same scope is called the Skywatcher Heritage 130 in Europe.

https://www.cloudyni...ders/?p=8148654

There wouldn't be much room for anything else though.

I have that sort of setup. Bigger tripod. It weighs less than 10 lbs and is the same general size as my down bag and 3/4 sleeping pad combination. Wouldn't want to go out for a week with it, but a warm weather weekend wouldn't be bad.

Edited by rhetfield, 01 March 2021 - 10:37 PM.


#12 SpaceConqueror3

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 11:12 PM

I personally detest binoculars for astronomy under any circumstance but if you have no biases against them, they would be the most practical compact option that can be encased and protected while hiking along. But perhaps you could find a 50-60mm RFT to put on a small tripod like:

 

post-14379-0-36803100-1502927343.jpg

 

 

deb1c040e85708d647a6e83443c2c16c_1024x10


Edited by SpaceConqueror3, 01 March 2021 - 11:17 PM.

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#13 radiofm74

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 02:43 AM

I like the idea of binoculars and a good book to begin. You might be able to start without spending much anything. Ask around in the family: someone is certain to have an old pair of binoculars lying around! If not, look in the used market and you may find decent binoculars for around ≈30-50€. I assume you're in Italy: check out https://astrosell.it

 

This will get you started, and save budget for a small scope. Once you have binos and a book, you can start learning the sky and having fun immediately, and save up some more for the right set-up (150€ is probably not enough to get good quality).

 

As for "super light and portable" category, all the options given above are good. Along the lines of a MAK as suggested by Peta, a Celestron C90 could to be a good option. You can find it for about 150€ used if you're patient, and then you'll have to spend some more for a lightweight mount holding it.

 

Here's a review: https://telescopicwa...c90-mak-review/

 

You may get good magnification out of it. My only concern is that its small field of view might make locating objects more difficult than it should be, especially for someone starting out, and limit your views of more diffuse object. A small refractor would be kind of the inverse: big field of view, relatively low magnification. A much-loved beginner scope! Read this: https://skyandtelesc...ing-simplified/

 

Your call!


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#14 sg6

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 04:24 AM

I guess (???) that the idea is to mount it on a camera tripod, they tend to be lighter in weight but you lose stability. If so then get an 80mm refractor. Even get a 60mm or 70mm refractor.

 

I would generally say something around the f/8 mark to reduce the CA, which means in a way the 80mm f/5's are not the ideal option.

 

Binoculars are nice but not the same as  a scope.

 

You said that an 80mm was for "DSO's" well no scope you can buy will show stars as other then points of light so all that is left are DSO's and the odd planet or two.

 

You likely do not need 80mm, my most used scopes are 60mm, 70mm, 72mm. Not the 102, 100 and 150.

 

Add EU, country and even town to your profile information. People will otherwise supply answers that are heavily US based. Seems Stellavue make a nice 80mm achro but you are not going to get one, sort of ever.

 

You will need say 3 eyepieces and as plossls are inexpensive the possibility of those also is helped by an f/7-f/10 achro.

 

Check the Bresser site out, their ex-display stuff could be useful: Bresser-XD

Otherwise you can look at the othewise standard offerings.

Neither pages seem to have a great amount at present however. With the ex-display items you may have to get whatever fast as they do seem to move quick, if you see what you want.

 

After that it is I suppose TS and Astro-shop.


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#15 LDW47

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 09:18 AM

You might just consider some Canon image stabilized binoculars, I’m partial to the 15x50s. They weigh 2 pounds and some change, and they’re like having a super wide 2” eyepiece going. Fits all of the Pleiades in the view, the 3 belt stars in Orion and resolves good detail of the nebula too. It won’t do Saturn or Jupiter all that well but they’re a lot smaller than a proper telescope. Think of them as two small refractors smile.gif The 10x30s are even smaller but not quite as good for astronomy, though half the price. 

So are these binos $150 or less to fall into the OP’s budget ?? Or is this thread another that is already starting to spiral upwards ? 10x30’s for astronomy ?



#16 LDW47

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 09:20 AM

I personally detest binoculars for astronomy under any circumstance but if you have no biases against them, they would be the most practical compact option that can be encased and protected while hiking along. But perhaps you could find a 50-60mm RFT to put on a small tripod like:

 

post-14379-0-36803100-1502927343.jpg

 

 

deb1c040e85708d647a6e83443c2c16c_1024x10

Where do you buy, easily, those scopes in Europe ?



#17 JohnnyBGood

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 09:30 AM

I'm searching for a budget "backpack telescope", meaning a cheap telescope that I can take with me while hiking or travelling with nothing but my backpack.

I've put my eyes on these ones:

 

- Zhumell Z100: really good one but I have some doubt about its portability in a backpack, personally I think a refractor will be more suitable, furthermore this is not-collimable, and since I will use it as travel telescope it will easy take some bump and unrecoverably loose its collimation

- Meade LightBridge Mini 114 Reflector: according to several websites this seems the best one but, again, I have doubt on reflector's portability, here even more than before since this one is bigger than the Z100

- Meade Infinity 80mm refractor: this one looks pretty portable to me, but it is my understanding that it is not really a versatile telescope since it is more suitable for DSO observation

 

 

I can't really speak to the first two, but personally I don't like tabletop scopes. There isn't always a convenient table or other solid surface to set them up on (and if there is a table it's probably under a tree), and if I have to carry around a special table to use it I might as well carry around a lighter, more compact tripod built for that purpose.

 

The Infinity 80 is a compact scope but the tripod and mount are pretty big. Larger that I would want to carry very far. The mount isn't all that friendly to use (the newer StarPro series scopes are slightly expensive but the extra cost is well worth it) Meade does sell carrying bags for their entry-level scopes, though. They're pretty limited as far as padding goes but work well for keeping everything together and keeping dust off of the scopes in storage or transport.

 

I personally use an older Meade 70az scope for my light travel scope since it breaks down into surprisingly small components and came with a small carrying satchel. 70mm is, to me, an ideal size: adequate size for seeing things in dark skies while still being usable on a light mount and tripod. Larger scopes usually need a heavier duty mount and that adds weight and bulk. Fine for home use but not so good if you want to carry it several kilometers.

 

If the planned use is for backpacking and traveling light, I'd suggest looking into something like the Meade Infinity 70 (the StarPro 70 has a better mount but is more expensive). It's a longer scope than the Infinity 80 so it's more well-rounded, equally good for the moon, planets, and DSOs. It has a lighter mount and tripod than the Infinity 80 as well. The carrying case that is marketed for the Infinity 60/70 is a really tight fit for the Infinity 70, so it's not a bad idea to go up a size and get the bag for the Infinity 80/90/102 or the Polaris 70/80/90 bag. The bags have shoulder straps so the scope would be easy to carry hiking and not heavy enough to be fatiguing. The scope comes with modest but adequate eyepieces and a correct image diagonal which makes it useful in the daytime as well for viewing distant scenery (this is very enjoyable when traveling), unlike a reflector which gives upside down images. Best of all, it's inexpensive which leaves more money for accessories like eyepiece upgrades or a book like Turn Left at Orion.

My son has a short tube 70mm scope similar to the Orion and Celestron Travel Scopes. While it's even more lightweight and portable, the mounts on those are a little too light and flimsy and it's very hard to get them to stay still when you point them up. They also have very rough movement at high power, making it hard to track the moon and planets. The short focal length makes high power views blurry as well. Still, it's easy for a small child to carry and set up so we take it places with us, like hiking to the top of Stone Mountain in Georgia where we could set up the scope and enjoy looking at the view all around us. The longer tubed Infinity 70 has none of those problems and is only marginally bulkier and heavier, well worth the trade-off for an adult.

 

For your budget you *could* get a larger, better, more powerful telescope than the Infinity 70 but it would be harder to transport. To keep the same level of compactness and portability as the Infinity 70, the next step up in quality would be something like an ETX-90 or C90 but unless you can find one used it will probably exceed your budget by a lot.


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#18 druotolo

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 09:57 AM

First, I would like to thank everybody for your precious suggestions. This is really a nice community!

 

For those who suggested me the binoculars, thanks, but I don't think they will fit my purpose, i.e. observing celestial objects (at a very entry level). Can I see the rings of Saturn with binoculars? With a telescope like the Meade Infinity 80 I can, even if I am perfectly aware that the image will be far from clear and defined. Furthermore, I think that there won't be a lot of price difference between good binoculars and a budget telescope. Please correct me if I am wrong, anyway, thanks again.

 

I can't really speak to the first two, but personally I don't like tabletop scopes. There isn't always a convenient table or other solid surface to set them up on (and if there is a table it's probably under a tree), and if I have to carry around a special table to use it I might as well carry around a lighter, more compact tripod built for that purpose.

 

The Infinity 80 is a compact scope but the tripod and mount are pretty big. Larger that I would want to carry very far. The mount isn't all that friendly to use (the newer StarPro series scopes are slightly expensive but the extra cost is well worth it) Meade does sell carrying bags for their entry-level scopes, though. They're pretty limited as far as padding goes but work well for keeping everything together and keeping dust off of the scopes in storage or transport.

 

I personally use an older Meade 70az scope for my light travel scope since it breaks down into surprisingly small components and came with a small carrying satchel. 70mm is, to me, an ideal size: adequate size for seeing things in dark skies while still being usable on a light mount and tripod. Larger scopes usually need a heavier duty mount and that adds weight and bulk. Fine for home use but not so good if you want to carry it several kilometers.

 

If the planned use is for backpacking and traveling light, I'd suggest looking into something like the Meade Infinity 70 (the StarPro 70 has a better mount but is more expensive). It's a longer scope than the Infinity 80 so it's more well-rounded, equally good for the moon, planets, and DSOs. It has a lighter mount and tripod than the Infinity 80 as well. The carrying case that is marketed for the Infinity 60/70 is a really tight fit for the Infinity 70, so it's not a bad idea to go up a size and get the bag for the Infinity 80/90/102 or the Polaris 70/80/90 bag. The bags have shoulder straps so the scope would be easy to carry hiking and not heavy enough to be fatiguing. The scope comes with modest but adequate eyepieces and a correct image diagonal which makes it useful in the daytime as well for viewing distant scenery (this is very enjoyable when traveling), unlike a reflector which gives upside down images. Best of all, it's inexpensive which leaves more money for accessories like eyepiece upgrades or a book like Turn Left at Orion.

My son has a short tube 70mm scope similar to the Orion and Celestron Travel Scopes. While it's even more lightweight and portable, the mounts on those are a little too light and flimsy and it's very hard to get them to stay still when you point them up. They also have very rough movement at high power, making it hard to track the moon and planets. The short focal length makes high power views blurry as well. Still, it's easy for a small child to carry and set up so we take it places with us, like hiking to the top of Stone Mountain in Georgia where we could set up the scope and enjoy looking at the view all around us. The longer tubed Infinity 70 has none of those problems and is only marginally bulkier and heavier, well worth the trade-off for an adult.

 

For your budget you *could* get a larger, better, more powerful telescope than the Infinity 70 but it would be harder to transport. To keep the same level of compactness and portability as the Infinity 70, the next step up in quality would be something like an ETX-90 or C90 but unless you can find one used it will probably exceed your budget by a lot.

JohnnyBGood I totally agree with the table-top issues, and I didn't know that the mount of the 80 was that big. My point with 70mm telescopes is about their length: a 700mm scope isn't uncomfortable to carry around due to its length? That's why I am more oriented to a 400mm length like the 80.


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#19 SpaceConqueror3

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 10:24 AM

Where do you buy, easily, those scopes in Europe ?

Absolutely no idea but that wasn't the task here. But I'm sure it's not the impossible dream to fulfill. My wife buys items directly from Germany all the time. It's not always easy but she does. Perhaps similar items are made in Europe. I can't imagine that Japanese and American manufacturers have cornered the market on these types of telescopes or they weren't ever available or purchasable in/from Europe. The telescopes he's already looking at are in the same boat aren't they?


Edited by SpaceConqueror3, 02 March 2021 - 10:42 AM.


#20 LDW47

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 10:40 AM

Absolutely no idea but that wasn't the task here. But I'm sure it's not the impossible dream to fulfill. My wife buys items directly from Germany all the time. It's not always easy but she does. Perhaps similar items are made in Europe. I can't imagine that Japanese and American manufacturers have cornered the market on these types of  telescopes.

Those 80’s scopes in your first pic are not easy to find even in N America, it took me a while so for the OP .......... ?



#21 NYJohn S

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 10:54 AM

Where do you buy, easily, those scopes in Europe ?

Something similar but with the counter counterweight not the best for a backpack https://www.teleskop...tablemount.html

 

I don't really like the EQ mount. I would just get the OTA and look for a small photo tripod with a ball head. I do something similar but carry the tripod separately in a case with a shoulder strap. https://www.teleskop...-80-400-mm.html

 

This is the setup I use

 

AT72EDII Manfrotto Tripod & Ball Head
AT72EDII Blue Backpack 1500px

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#22 peta62

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 11:34 AM

Something similar but with the counter counterweight not the best for a backpack https://www.teleskop...tablemount.html

 

I have this mount and it is for backpack, it is small and does not wight much. It is a bit shaky, but you can always adjust it before observing. What you probably do not see on this picture is the mount has photo thread hole on the bottom, so you can put it on photo tripod. Funny thing, you could even buy motors for R.A. axis.


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#23 LDW47

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 12:20 PM

Something similar but with the counter counterweight not the best for a backpack https://www.teleskop...tablemount.html

 

I don't really like the EQ mount. I would just get the OTA and look for a small photo tripod with a ball head. I do something similar but carry the tripod separately in a case with a shoulder strap. https://www.teleskop...-80-400-mm.html

 

This is the setup I use

 

Very nice, very compact ! A perfect example !


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#24 druotolo

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 12:35 PM

Something similar but with the counter counterweight not the best for a backpack https://www.teleskop...tablemount.html

Actually you just make me look at another model that I think it is ok for its dimensions:

 

http://skywatcher.co...duct/bk-705az3/

 

As far as I have understood this was formerly called the Skywatcher AC 70/500 Mercury AZ-3 .

What do you think about it? It is a good one or it is crap?



#25 jjbag

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 12:53 PM

I have this as my travel scope I picked it up for $150 used: 

 

https://www.amazon.c...4707507&sr=8-3 

 

It even comes with its own backpack.




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