Although most of my observing for the last year or so has been pretty much 100% solar, I've felt the need for a 10" or so dobsonian for those nights that I get the sudden urge to get out, but I want more aperture than my refractors. I chose a 10" solid tube dob for a number of reasons; easier set up, holds collimation better, plus my second real telescope was a 10" f/5 solid tube dob from a company long out of business named Z-Scope, so I was a bit nostalgic. While I do have a 10" SkyWatcher flextube goto dob, it has not been used in close to a year for various reasons, not least of which is the difficulty in using it manually, and I find the goto to be a pain.
Being retired I am pretty well priced out of the premium dob market, so I looked at the imports as the Chinese and Taiwanese telescopes that I've owned in the past were just fine. After looking at Orion, Apertura and Explore Scientific, I chose the ES because (a) it was in stock, (b) it was on sale and © I really liked the look of the tube rings holding larger trunnions. I put the telescope in my cart, but I didn't purchase right away. Later I received a 7% off coupon code from ES, so I ended up buying the package for $790 shipped. The telescope shipped two days later and arrived today.
First the unboxing; the base, trunnions, hardware and some accessories were in one double box, supported with closed cell foam in the sides. The OTA, a moon map, ReflexSight finder and a planesphere were in another heavy duty double box with closed cell foam supporting each end of the OTA. It was in fine condition on arrival, with no dents in the boxes, an everything in good order.
The base goes together quite quickly, being built similar to furniture from Ikea, with posts and locking bolts. The holes for the posts had what appeared to be metal threaded inserts, so the posts screwed in easily. The whole thing went together in less than a half hour, including my reading the instructions three or four times to familiarize myself with the process.
The OTA already had the rings installed, so the only thing left to do was install the trunnions with four hand knobs.
Once it was together, I put in my laser collimator and all that was required was to tweak the secondary a little, and it was in perfect collimation according to the barlowed laser.
The OTA has two dual purpose finder shoes consisting of one for the standard ES finders, and a Vixen/Synta shoe that fits into the ES shoe. The Hex focuser is sturdy and smooth. When I bought this telescope I thought that I would order the optional dual speed knob once the scope was here, but now I'm not so sure. The telescope is well balanced, once you find the right point, and I can now use anything from a 1.25" Plossl to a 30mm UFF in the GSO coma corrector. I have no doubt that my Maxbright II binoviewer will be just fine. The trunnions have what appears to be FRP wallboard affixed to them, and they ride on what looks like Teflon pads. The groundboard was already put together, but it feels like it uses the same materials. The motions are smooth, with just the right amount of stiction, and it seems to be very stable when moving it around. The flashlight test (yeah, I know) shows just a few dust motes on the primary mirror. The secondary has knobs that can be turned by hand with a screwdriver slot in the middle.
Accessories included the typical cheap 25mm Plossl, a cheap red dot finder, the aforementioned ReflexSight that I will probably sell since I prefer a Telrad, a cell phone holder (?), a planesphere and a moon map, both of which I will send to a friend of my wife's whose husband is just getting started in astronomy, and a Vixen type dovetail should one want to mount this on a GEM. As to the dovetail, why anyone would mount a 10" telescope on a GEM with anything less than a Losmandy type mount is beyond me, but at least they include it just in case. Maybe I'll find another use for the dovetail.
I have the impression that the Firstlight series is aimed at beginners, but I have been at this for over 30 years and I am very pleased with it and can see this being my last foray into larger aperture reflectors. Of course, the telescope brought a cloudy night tonight, followed by temps way colder than I like to be out in, so it may be a few days before I can see how it performs on the night sky.
Photos to follow. First are the unboxing, and I will put the photos of the telescope in a following post.