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Explore Scientific 127ED FCD100 with lighted dew shield

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#1 thesubwaypusher

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Posted 04 December 2021 - 02:34 AM

Hi folks-

 

I sold my great Esprit 150 here a few weeks ago because although it was perfect for my Skywatcher AZ mount, it was too long and straining for my Vixen SXP. I searched for the perfect replacement triplet by reading many first light reports and reviews. One that caught my eye was the Explore Scientific 127ED FCD100. I have read a few posts on how looks don’t matter with instruments we use, but I disagree. As with all of my past telescopes, I feel that having an elegant and gleaming (white) optical tube assembly standing proudly before me is important. When I sat behind my Esprit and C-14 for example, I felt like a scientist because they were obviously serious instruments by sheer size. I loved the way they moved and tracked, especially in ALT-AZ. I have also owned a few LX200’s over the years, and still have two. One of which is the glossy “classic” (in my living room) and the other white, both in pristine condition.

 

I recall opening the triple-boxed FSQ-85 and FSQ-106 years ago and being struck by the initial presentation. Man, the beautiful glossy tubes with the red strips and lettering (definitely not decals) were striking. Well, you can imagine my excitement when I opened the double-boxed 127! The images online do not do this instrument justice. It is a wonderfully bright white that looks perfectly placed on the mount. And let me tell you something, the “goofy” dew shield as some have described it, along with its general meatiness, esthetically pulls it away from the ultra-premiums. I have always thought the unique look of the ES dew shields are kool as well. As is the yellow galaxy, AND even the company name! -Back to the dew shield for a second- I have never owned a refractor with a sliding dew shield. I kinda dig it because it is NOT utilitarian, but stylish, dare I say, EXQUISITE not to have a screw sticking out where it obviously does not belong. Wait! Why does not (I Dream of Jeannie) then, the dew shield fall when pointing to the zenith? I must investigate this further one day AFTER the night it does. (In other words, I’m afraid of messing it up beforehand so I’ll wait until I have a reason to tamper.) What next with this magical telescope?

Optically, I could not find a single derogatory word about the 127. The focuser on the other hand, was an issue. We’ll get to that. But the biggest problem I faced was- would it allow my binoviewers to work at native without having to rely on added magnification in the form of a barlow or gpc? Because if it did not, I would have had to either work something out with Astronomics, or sell it immediately at a substantial loss. OR, ascertain whether or not a new Feathertouch or Moonlite could have gotten me out of the jam by offering a shorter focuser. None of these aspects would have been a serious problem as I would have ultimately moved on to another find, but who needs the hassle.

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So the reason for this post is three-fold, in consideration for someone who is contemplating pulling the trigger:

 

#1- OPTICAL QUALITY - This point is not really important to reiterate, (I’ll do it anyway) as every prospective buyer that is interested in the ES will quickly discover that the experience of the good people of Cloudynights and elsewhere wholeheartedly vouch for the excellent quality of the optics, especially the FCD100 series. Even our friend Ed Ting praises the scope’s performance with his discerning eye on his fantastic review site. As I prepared to use it on my balcony the night I got it (YES, THE NIGHT I GOT IT – HOW FREAKIN’ KOOL WAS THAT!), I hung my blankets (it’s a city thing) and set up the mount. Then I installed the telescope and aligned, and found this new OTA to be nicely balanced (admittedly, with a very heavy bino assembly on the rear end). On the AZ, it’s Polaris/Fomalhaut, done. So it was 10 minutes between the time I removed the scope from my warm apartment into 36-degree weather- to the time my eyes hit the binoviewer, the only ocular(s) I utilize. Jupiter was at my six-o’clock and the mount flew there, as if it couldn’t wait either- The NYC Clear Sky Chart was indicating poor seeing which is normal for this area- although many times it is excellent as well. In three hours, it indicates seeing will be “bad”. -I can’t recall ever having an image so sharp and detailed after such little cool down on any of my varied scopes over the almost three decades using this balcony. I immediately re-checked the chart and that’s what it read. Poor. A mistake wouldn’t have mattered though, because even with excellent seeing, this image would have been classified as amazing. And colorless. I installed the 1.7 gpc for a magnification of 94X. Same. I never go higher because then I figure, Why am I using a refractor? The edge of the sphere of the planet was so sharp and defined, and the belts, zones and striations so boldly obvious, I could have sworn I was working with a larger telescope that had been cooled for hours. -I slewed to Venus in Sagittarius from there and the mere perimeter of the crescent was dazzling! -As was the turbulent and racing atmosphere that was rushing by between us. I just stood and watched as city buses went by one after the other, jostling the view slightly. It is rush hour, you see. Like Jupiter, the edge of the sphere was sharp. How? When it is almost in the mud? Then Saturn. Unbelievable. Later, as the hours of “bad" seeing approached, and faded, deep sky objects such as M31 and the Double Cluster as well as many distant asterisms, were studied for flatness of field and I was again amazed- now at the outer-edge sharpness. On dimmer stars, I thought I was using a quadruplet! I thought it may have been because of the correcting elements in the Delos line, but the 6-element Panoptics exhibited the same. With the 31mm Nagler Type 5, the stars were sharp up until about three-quarters to the field stop. This eyepiece always was as finicky as Venus (my cat.)

 

#2- BINOVIEWERS? - Keep in mind that I had already tested the 19mm Panoptics on my Baader Mark V body with the T-2 prism (shortest light path) diagonal inside in the daytime and was relieved to discover they were perfectly fine with plenty of in-travel remaining. I kind of knew that already because I did find a post where a guy was claiming that his same setup (although not Pans) worked. HOWEVER, the Panoptics are my second-favorite and therefore second-used eyepieces. Would my FAVORITES be okay? Would the HUMONGOUS 17.3mm Delos’ be okay? Not only backfocus-wise, but they bring the weight of the binoviewing system up to 3+ pounds- Would this reportedly substandard focuser fail?

 

Well, I am happy to report that they do come to focus, AND the focusing unit experienced no failure. BUT! There is a space of only a couple of millimeters left to spare. Whew! Close! (Please see the two images of the focuser to gain a comparison in the gap indicating remaining focus travel on the Panoptics and Delos’ respectively.) Unexpectedly, this is a blessing in disguise because with nearly all the backfocus gone, the focuser in basically closed, so the weight of the binoviewers is so far forward that it should not have any  drooping issues. Additional good news is that if this setup works with these tall 8-element monsters, I can’t see any eyepiece having trouble reaching focus at native.

 

3- FOCUSER - (Keep in mind that the focuser that comes with the FCD100 is the upgraded unit.) This next issue is the removal of the focuser for the purpose of replacing it with an improved model. I read numerous posters who were very aggravated regarding why ES would glue (seemingly permanently) the units on so tight. I think a dab of Loctite would have been enough, if anything at all was needed to begin with. One owner even took it to a machine shop! OMG, I wonder how THAT turned out?! I am happy to inform you that the new style of focuser on the ES very simply screws right off. Now keep in mind that they may have simply forgotten to apply the glue on MY new telescope, but I doubt it. I would find it difficult to fathom that the great Scott (simply tighten it to a firm feel) Roberts and his elves did not read of this very annoying issue and resolve it. But that is easy to confirm by contacting them. It really was a serious issue as even I myself was hesitating to make the purchase. This because I certainly did not relish the thought of potentially damaging the OTA by trying to remove the focusing component.

 

The functioning of my particular piece is described as follows; the drawtube does not sag even with my Canon R attached far down the optical train (relative to my application). I only use one of the included extension tubes because I have a long single extension already attached to the camera, so if shooting directly from the camera mount, you will need at least both of theirs. Don’t forget to loosen the tiny set screw to remove the inner adapter with the three long screws first, as it is the reason you will not be able to separate the two. -The course and fine focus knob are positive and smooth, and honestly to my surprise, they do not turn backwards and allow the heavy bino setup to slip downward at the zenith. AND with the screws tightened just to the point of the weight being held firmly, the focuser otherwise still turns with a pleasing amount of force. I like to focus by using two hands to turn each large knob because I have quite a load to raise and lower. I find this focuser smooth this way- the fine knob I just turn with one hand and find it to be very accurate up and down- even at the zenith. The knob that controls the camera (or eyepiece) rotating adjustment I determined to be reliable to use- even with the very heavy eyepieces at 90 degrees for quite some time without sagging downward at all.

 

I am going to get a Feathertouch just for fun. As aforementioned, I have to call them to make sure it is going to be the same length or shorter than this one to binoview happily with. Please note something I would like to make clear however, if I haven’t already, and that is that the stock focuser on the Explore Scientific 127ED FCD100 is perfectly fine for visual use, even fun. Occasional DSLR use also. Avid astrophotography would probably be okay, but if you invested in all that fancy equipment already, what’s another few hundred dollars for a Feathertouch or Moonlite?

 

Having reported all this, I do agree with Ed in that this focusing unit does not belong on such an otherwise fine instrument.

 

Good luck with your decision, Chris

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Edited by thesubwaypusher, 04 December 2021 - 10:22 AM.

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#2 Castor

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Posted 04 December 2021 - 08:47 PM

Hi Chris,

 

Congratulations on your new Explore Scientific 127ED FCD100 refractor and thank you for sharing your very enthusiastic review of the scope confirming the compatibility with your binoviewer setup, I always have a great time reading your equipment reviews! waytogo.gif

 

I have a 5-inch refractor too on a manual Alt-Az mount that brings pleasing views and a lot of joy for my uncomplicated way of doing visual observing.  Take good care and I wish you very good seeing so you can keep enjoying your new refractor! wink.gif 


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#3 thesubwaypusher

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Posted 05 December 2021 - 03:57 AM

Hey Castor-

 

Thanks dude- Yes I felt compelled to get those points out there since the only thing that was absolutely clear through reading other people's posts was the optical quality aspect. You should have seen how shocked I was when I saw the first images through the binos- thinking I was under poor seeing conditions. To the scope: bow.gif I'll never know if that was a mistake or not, not that it matters. Then I saw I only had two millimeters left of in-travel, AND then the focuser that I thought I would never be able to get off started easily unscrewing with very little effort! I felt badly that the others had such difficulty with the removal. Especially that poor machine shop guy! undecided.gif The only glitch I had with the whole experience was that the box was apparently stepped on because the inner and outer boxes were creased in about the middle and the two bolts on the cage were actually bent, one badly, but the tube was okay. That's why I refer to my 127 as the magic telescope, as the tube was fine. It must have turned with the downward force. I see I have a delivery from ES coming this week with the new bolts. No surprise as they are known for their great customer service.

 

I am enjoying the instrument very much under Bortle 8 skies, (isn't that sick!) I can only imagine what dark skies are like. I know what you mean about uncomplicated observing because I used to use a T-rex back in the day. Only thing was it weighed a ton. 

 

Thanks for the shout and clear skies to you as well, as you are one of the sincere gems of CN.

 

I have been binoviewing for as long as I can remember and I hope you have discovered the magic over mono too as it totally transforms one's observing.

 

Chris


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#4 Castor

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Posted 05 December 2021 - 05:30 PM

Chris,

 

Thank you for the kind words, but the merit is all yours for taking the time to share your useful ‘down to Earth’ insights on observing equipment that may greatly benefit those considering acquiring similar gear!  For example someone on a tight budget looking for doing binoviewing on a moderate cost and size refractor who can’t afford to spend around 1k extra on a Feather Touch focuser+adapter will love to hear (or read) that the ES 127ED can accommodate one without the need for a barlow or a glass path compensator (GPC) with a couple of millimeters to spare, that’s what I call a useful bit of info!  The same goes for the ability for easy removal of the focuser on your current model ES 127ED refractor.

 

Yes,  I have looked through binoviewers and it was a wonderful, eye-opening experience but given my long history with binoculars I know that I’m very sensitive to the slightest mis-collimation issues and considering the cost of a top quality binoviewer and associated gear (eyepiece pairs, GPC, optimal diagonal and couplers) I find it hard to justify the expense, especially considering my limited budget –I know that I would not be happy with a budget binoviewer with small clear aperture prisms because I love wide field, low power vistas.  I try to make the best of what I have, so I enjoy using multiple, similar-sized eyepieces for trying different magnifications on the objects that I’m observing in mono-viewing mode and it’s a joy not needing to rebalance the scope.

 

Thank you again and happy to see you posting here! smile.gif 


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#5 thesubwaypusher

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Posted 06 December 2021 - 12:04 AM

waytogo.gif


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#6 Brian Carter

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Posted 06 December 2021 - 07:02 AM

I have the carbon fiber version of this scope and it is optically excellent. I’d go as far to say as it is among the optically best scopes I’ve looked through on 20+ years of observing. It’s one of those scopes that even a quick look will demonstrate it is something special.

But that focuser, it turns what is essentially a perfect scope into junk that isn’t fun to use. It focuses roughly badly. It has like an inch of draw tube. And it is not collimatable. I was lucky to get one of the last 2.5” dual speed focusers from moonlite, and no the scope is essentially perfect.

Focusers are hard to design well, a lot of nice scopes can’t seem to get that part right. But ES really hobbled a nice scope with that hex focuser, otherwise they are really nice scopes.
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#7 thesubwaypusher

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Posted 07 December 2021 - 12:20 AM

I have the carbon fiber version of this scope and it is optically excellent. I’d go as far to say as it is among the optically best scopes I’ve looked through on 20+ years of observing. It’s one of those scopes that even a quick look will demonstrate it is something special.

But that focuser, it turns what is essentially a perfect scope into junk that isn’t fun to use. It focuses roughly badly. It has like an inch of draw tube. And it is not collimatable. I was lucky to get one of the last 2.5” dual speed focusers from moonlite, and no the scope is essentially perfect.

Focusers are hard to design well, a lot of nice scopes can’t seem to get that part right. But ES really hobbled a nice scope with that hex focuser, otherwise they are really nice scopes.

 

 

Well, I have never had a "bad" focuser. If a unit doesn't work correctly, I remove it, disassemble it, clean it, lubricate it, and test it before reassembly. I did the same with this one as I thought it was initially kind of rough. But none of us that use these things are idiots. In fact, I get a rush when I need to fix anything! And when something is wrong, by our very nature, we tend to make it right before giving up on it, especially if it means a $400-800 dollar investment which is pretty much unnecessary in this case when you think about it hard enough. A smooth focuser is a luxury. I think the statement, "it turns a perfect scope into junk" is way overkill as such a simple little mechanism is SO easy to improve with a little effort. I really cannot imagine anything that guys like us can't improve on by contemplation and tinkering. And even if we did seek perfection, and fell short of achieving it, calling the 127 "junk" simply because the focuser is not what we expected is unreasonable at best. I mean, it would take a MUCH more serious issue to call this fine telescope junk.

 

With mine, I unscrewed the unit before even taking it outdoors. I adjusted the hex screws and adjustment knobs and it was better. I knew the folks at the factory are obligated to assemble, they don't have time to make fine adjustments. I'm guessing that as long as it turns, and the drawtube goes in and out, they are on there way to the next one. Anyway, so I placed a tiny dab of Triflow in select places. Then it became much better. When I went out to observe, through trial and error, I tweaked the adjustments again, and now it works even better still. As mentioned in my original post, I could easily keep it if I wanted to.

 

Your first paragraph is spot on however, and exactly how I felt after my first peek smile.gif  


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#8 DocWithDob

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Posted 08 December 2021 - 06:50 PM

Exactly my experience - I've the same scope and find it superb optically; but after about the third use, the hex focuser fine adjustment knob was just awful, loads of play and barely any adjustment. I found a tiny hex screw sitting at the bottom of a tiny deep dark hole was loose, and that was all that needed attention to put it right.
My only other niggle is that it has a finder scope shoe incompatible with my amassed collection of Skywatcher finders, but our club has a 3d printer for just such eventualities. 
 


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#9 thesubwaypusher

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Posted 09 December 2021 - 09:58 PM

Exactly my experience - I've the same scope and find it superb optically; but after about the third use, the hex focuser fine adjustment knob was just awful, loads of play and barely any adjustment. I found a tiny hex screw sitting at the bottom of a tiny deep dark hole was loose, and that was all that needed attention to put it right.
My only other niggle is that it has a finder scope shoe incompatible with my amassed collection of Skywatcher finders, but our club has a 3d printer for just such eventualities

 

Copy that-

 

Funny, "amassed" would infer- quite a lot. It's frustrating to get around anything that is proprietary and that misses the mark by a mere centimeter or so. I had that problem with a Vixen mount that required me to shave bolt heads flush in order to achieve proper fit as they just would not respond to parts requests. And a Hirobo RC heli I use to fly was notorious for not having their exact parts available, hence, I was grounded! Like I said, and you gave an example of, we only need to be ready and willing to repair or adjust the issue. 3D printer- bow.gif


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#10 Jon_Doh

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Posted 10 December 2021 - 09:15 AM

Thanks for the detailed review.  But if you're viewing from a balcony in the city be careful, lest someone mistakes you for a peeping Tom with that thing grin.gif


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#11 thesubwaypusher

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Posted 11 December 2021 - 01:12 AM

Thanks for the detailed review.  But if you're viewing from a balcony in the city be careful, lest someone mistakes you for a peeping Tom with that thing grin.gif

 

You are very welcome-

 

The blankets pictured are primarily to block the wind and light, but give me a lot of privacy also. Here's one for you-When I mount my C-14, I can't do it before dark because I'm on the top floor of a building that faces a large boulevard. So imagine multiple lanes of oncoming traffic seeing the 14 with its HUGE dew shield pointing in the direction of the planes on approach to very nearby LaGuardia airport! 

 

Can you say, FBI?

 

bawling.gif


Edited by thesubwaypusher, 11 December 2021 - 09:57 PM.


#12 V-Rock

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Posted 29 December 2021 - 08:13 AM

Great review very informative . I can't wait to hear how it performs on Jupiter and Saturn when they come back around. you definitely know your stuff, Going to put this one on my wishlist as soon as I sell or trade my istar Perseus 150 f12. 


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