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DevonSkies

Scope for travel / grab-and-go

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I recently bought a Skywatcher 10" Dob, which I am very pleased with as my first telescope. However, it's obviously large and heavy and I've come to the realisation that I will need to complement it with a smaller scope for travel (mainly caravan/camping holidays) and grab-and-go use.

I anticipate it will be for use in good dark sky locations, so I'm mainly going to be targeting DSO's (planetary stuff I can do from my slightly light-polluted back garden!). I'm willing to sacrifice aperture in favour of portability (hoping dark skies will compensate), so I'm looking for something in the 3"-5" range. I need to be able to transport and store the scope alongside family holiday paraphenalia, so I would prefer a short tube (I'm thinking around 60cm tube length?) and simple alt-az or Dobson mount.

I have been considering three options:

1) A short tube refractor, such as SW Startravel 102 or 120

2) A small Maksutov, e.g. SW Skymax 102 or 127

3) A mini Dobsonian, e.g. SW Heritage 100P/130P

Any thoughts on these options for my intended use? The size of the Mak is attractive, but I fear the long focal length might be too much for larger DSOs. The "low maintenance" aspect of the refractor appeals to me, but do the Startravel range perform well? The mini-Dobs look neat, but how easy are they to pack away and transport?

I won't be buying until the Spring at the earliest, but with the cloudy winter evenings I'm already thinking ahead and want to make the right choice!

Ed

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I bought the SW Mak127 goto and I am well pleased with it as a G&G. The tube and mount easily separate and it is pretty light. The goto work a treat and best of all I can mount my Altair Astro ED70 short tube refractor on it as well as the mounting cheek plae is nicely swept back and it doe not crash into the mount base at high elevations.

The Mak127 has excellent optics though thr supplied diagonal and ep's leave something to be desired, but as I won other diagonals and ep's I have just boxed the supplied ones in a cupboard.

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Hi

You may wish to consider 15 x 70 binoculars...

...truly compact, grab and go.

Have read that you could multiple 70 by 1.4 to get telescope equivalence.

Of your original choices, I would choose a refractor on a Giro mount.  I have a TMB92 on a Giro and photo tripod.

And yes, it could be spring before the next clear night..!

:)

Paul 

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For portability and robustness in transit I would have thought that a short tube refractor of around 4” would be a good option. Not sure about the mount, depends on budget I guess, but something like the Vixen Porta 2 is a good balance of price and portability (going cheap on FLO at the moment). I cannot comment on the Star Travels but I can tell you about my set up for what it’s worth…..

 

I have a 72mm semi-apo refractor which I use for grab and go - the scope, eyepieces and accessories fit into a backpack. I use it almost exclusively with my 10 mm eyepiece giving 43x mag. I use it on a camera tripod with a modification to make it more balanced.

 

Pros:

 

  • Great for wide fields, open clusters, brighter nebulae, galaxies, wider doubles and asterisms
  • Easy to find things, simple red dot finder is enough.
  • Nice contrast with black back grounds gives all objects a magical sparkle
  • Pinpoint stars with no Chromatic Abberation
  • Cool down times are not an issue
  • Lightweight and very compact
  • Robust, can be knocked about a bit with no collimation issues.
  • Flexible - also makes a good imaging scope and super-finderscope

 

Cons:

 

  • Lack of aperture means globulars are always fuzzy blobs, although I’m not sure how much aperture is needed to start to resolve stars in the brighter globs; more than 4"?
  • Cannot comfortably crank up the magnification beyond 80x 

HTH

Rob

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I recently bought a TS 80 budget frac it's F7.5 and works a treat, optics are way better than I had hoped and cheap. Put this on an AZ4 or vixen porta and you will have a great set up

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Thanks for the input so far. The Vixen Porta 2 does look like a good option for a mount. For legs, I already have a heavy Manfrotto photo tripod which I could press into service. Having said that, the Skywatcher AZ GoTo mounts also look quite attractive, and an absolute bargain when bundled with a scope.

Good point about the 15x70 binoculars. Perhaps I'll give that some thought too.

Ed

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Is go with one of your closed tube options, I have a small startravel and am very happy with it. My reflector can show a view without CA but it can't give me the lovely star field view my startravel can so I don't see CA an issue particularly as I guess dark sites are more about the smudges then the planets.

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Is go with one of your closed tube options, I have a small startravel and am very happy with it. My reflector can show a view without CA but it can't give me the lovely star field view my startravel can so I don't see CA an issue particularly as I guess dark sites are more about the smudges then the planets.

Thanks, I'm leaning towards the short tube refractor option at the moment. I can't justify an APO for occasional use, so CA is something I'm going to have to live with. Hopefully for star fields and deep sky CA won't be an issue anyway.

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CA doesn't bother me it is a personal experience and it is only on really bright stuff and when using my own eyepieces it is so much better, can't say I have noticed it on any stars when viewing. The supplied 10mm is hideous for CA I found on jupiter and the Moon.

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Like Jules, I have the TS 600 f7.5. I've , frustratingly, had little chance to really explore what it can do, but from what I have seen its going to be good. A very handy package at a remarkable price.

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I'd want the scope to be able to do what the bigger scope couldn't do as well as be portable, so I'd want it to have a nice short focal length to give me the ability to observe wide fields. This rules out the small Maks and SCTs for me. The ST series refractors are cheap and cheerful if not very planetary. They'll open up the view, too. You might also pick up something tasty second hand. The TeleVue Pronto is often a very reasonable price. I think I paid abut £250 for mine. It might have been less.

Olly

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Good input, everyone - thanks!

Does anyone know whether the dew shield is easily removable on the Startravel series? I'm just thinking about the overall length of the scope for transportation.

The Evostar 80ED looks nice too, but really it's out of my budget!

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I can take it off my ST80. Does leave the lens exposed and I can't test if the cap would fit over the new exposed end.

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I can take it off my ST80. Does leave the lens exposed and I can't test if the cap would fit over the new exposed end.

Thanks. Does it screw off, or what?

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I think I've decided on the Startravel 102, but I'm kind of tempted by the little Startravel 80 too - it's so cute! ;-)

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LOL... I know I said I'd wait til the spring, but I couldn't help myself and just ordered the ST102 on AZ3 mount!

Looking forward to some nice wide field views!

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LOL... I know I said I'd wait til the spring, but I couldn't help myself and just ordered the ST102 on AZ3 mount!

Looking forward to some nice wide field views!

Enjoy!

 I've just had a very nice view of M45 through my ST80,which has only seen light twice.

 Now waiting for M42 to rise to a suitable elevation.

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I have an ST120 on AZ4. The tripod is the steel leg version but even so it can be carried relatively easily in one hand while the other hand clutches my EP case. While it could classed as a grab and go I'm not sure some would consider it as portable and travel friendly as say an ST80 on camera tripod but it sure makes up for it when you get to darker skies with that extra 40mm aperture.

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The AZ4 with the steel legs is a very stable tripod.

I used one with my TAL100rs,until it got nicked(!)

Thinking about getting another,to resurrect the Tal in time for the Mars opposition,plus I miss the great views of double stars that I used to get!

 One further thought:I'd get an extension pier to improve things further.

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The AZ4 with the steel legs is a very stable tripod.

I used one with my TAL100rs,until it got nicked(!)

Thinking about getting another,to resurrect the Tal in time for the Mars opposition,plus I miss the great views of double stars that I used to get!

 One further thought:I'd get an extension pier to improve things further.

The AZ4 does indeed look good. I'll see how I get on with the bundled AZ3 before I think about upgrading though!

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I've added a counter weight bar to my Az3 so that it will hold altitude if I attach a dslr to the ST80. This way I can keep the adjusting bolts soft finger tight, nice an easy to then adjust the mount.

I made it myself based on this. Only put the bar on when I have the camera attached.

http://www.spacegazer.com/index.asp?pageid=97490

Edited by happy-kat
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I have an ST80 for travel - it goes in a backpack and has been to various parts of Europe on planes and trains. From Madeira I managed to hunt down M74 with it, and with a UHC filter got some fantastic views of the North America, Veil and Helix Nebula from Northern Spain, none of which are especially easy from SE England, even with a 6'' Dob. I'm considering a new 'scope at some point but am torn between getting an ultra portable truss-tube Dob (10'' - 12'', Explore Scientific do them) or a longer tube 4'' 'Frac for a bit of planetary. My one experience with a Cassegrain was not one I'd care to repeat...

DD

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