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Brad737

Which portable scope would you recommend?

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Hello all,

I'd like to get a nice, portable scope to bring along on camping trips with my family.  Before I pose my possible choices, I should point out that I'm aalmost certainly opposing to get an 8 or 10 inch Dobsonian for home use...probably a Zhumell or Sky-Watcher. Having said that, I've narrowed my choices down to four different scopes:

Orion StarMax 90mm MAK ~ $210
Focal length ~ 1250mm
Highest magnification ~ 180x
Needs Barlow & Moon filter

Orion StarBlast 4.5" ~ $210
Focal length ~ 450mm
Highest magnification ~ 228x
Needs Barlow & Moon filter

Zhumell Z130 ~ $200
Focal length ~ 650mm
Highest magnification ~ 165x
Needs Eyepiece kit $90

Sky Watcher Virtuoso 90mm Mak ~ $250
Focal length ~ 1250mm
Highest magnification ~ 180x
Needs Barlow & Moon filter

If you were going to buy a "camping scope" which of these would you select?  If you have another recommendation, I'd be happy to hear it.
Many thanks,
Brad

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All your telescopes come with table-top mounts, which will be fine provided you have a firm raised surface to put them on.

The main factor is deciding whether to go for a Mak or a reflector. Between the Skywatcher and Orion Maks I would say there is very little to choose between them - Orion and Skywatcher are in fact ultimately brands of the same Chinese company, Synta.

The Orion and Zhumell reflectors on the other hand have quite diferent specifications. The Orion has a smaller aperture and focal length - on paper at least I would prefer the Zhumell with 130mm aperture versus 114mm and focal length of 650mm versus 450mm. With only 450mm of aperture you will really be struggling to get decent magnifications for planetary and lunar observation.

I should add that according to https://www.telescopes.com/products/zhumell-z130-portable-altazimuth-reflector-telescope

the Zhumell does come with 25mm and 10mm eyepieces so the kit is not essential. I would also expect the Zhumell to have a higher theoretical magnification than x165. As a rough guide, I double the aperture in mm to give magnification, thus x260.

And I do hear very good things about Zhumell in general (Zhumell are in fact a US brand of GSO, a well respected manufacturer from Taiwan)

The main difference between small Maks and reflectors is focal length, 1250mm. This means that any given eyepiece will deliver more magnification in the Mak. For example, a 10mm EP in a 650mm reflector will give x65 but the same EP in the 1250mm Mak will give x125. In general Maks are great for giving higher but narrower magnifications of smaller objects such as planets and double stars, while the reflectors will preform better giving wider views at lower magnifications.

Most inexpensive telescopes come with relatively low quality eyepieces - in the medium term you can often dramatically improve your viewing quality by upgrading (without spending a fortune). A Barlow is a lens which goes between the telescope and the eyepiece, and effectively increases the magnification usually by x2 althtough other factors are possible. Remember, however, that compounding an optically poor EP with a poor quality Barlow will result in inferior viewing. Personally I would buy a telescope first and explore what it comes with before making a decision to buy a Barlow or upgrade the EPs.

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If I was to pick one of them, I would go for the Z130. Its got the biggest aperture, and from my own experience With the Heritage 130p,

I know I would be very pleased With how well a Scope of this size (and price) can perform on lunar, planets, widefields and fainter dso`s.

- compared With the Heritage, the Z130 is a solid tube (a good thing if the extra size when transporting it is not a problem), and the focuser looks better.

- You probably have to invest in a collimation tool sooner or later, especially since you will bring it With you on camping etc

It looks like it is a cover plate over the collimation screws for the primary that needs a tool to remove?

- the Heritage is also a 'tabletop', but I rarely use a table for it. A bucket or a small fold up Chair Works fine With me. (With the exeption when locating anything a zenith...)

 

Rune

Edited by Pondus
spelling

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It would depend on what you want to look at while camping.  Star fields, open clusters, globular clusters, nebula, the moon, and planets would each have somewhat differing requirements.  Short focal length telescopes do best with star fields and large open clusters like the Pleiades.  Mid focal length scopes do best with smaller open clusters and larger nebulae.  Long focal length scopes do best with globular clusters, small (planetary) nebula, the moon, and planets.  Admittedly, high quality, short focal length telescopes can be pushed to higher powers fairly readily (think high end APO refractors) and so are good all around scopes in a small package.

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"... I'd like to get a nice, portable scope to bring along on camping trips with my family...." Okay. This tells me to rule out the 130mm due to it's being a reflector. These generaly don't appreciate being bumped around on woodland trails. And they would need you to learn a new set of skills - such as collimation. So I'd suggest the 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain(s) you've been looking at. Patrick is quite correct in his writing above.

As for a 'table' or other good support - a tree-stump or similar would fit the bill - barring earthquakes.

As for problems with a Maksutov, it's limitation is that it will give a rather narrow FOV (Field Of View). This is the nature of a Maksutov. So if you can live with an instrument that wouldn't be the best choice for viewing the Veil Nebula or the Andromeda Galaxy in their entirety - M31 - but would give you and yours excellent view on the planets, comets, and globular-clusters like M31 in Hercules. A small Maksutov will also excel in any terrestial views during the daytime. And a Maksutov is more forgiving regards bumps and mild traume you're likely to encounter in transport - in vehicle & backpack.

Hope this helps -

Dave

 

<edit> If you do want an 'at-home' telescope with large aperture - then a Zhumell would be an excellent choice! Their optics are great, and their included outlay is 2nd. to none.

Edited by Dave In Vermont

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If you are using it with children, they will probably be most interested in observing the moon and the planets and maybe some big DSO's like the orion nebula. I don't think you need a big aperture scope for these objects. The Maksutov would do.

Have you considered a refractor? Refractors tolerate transport quite well. They should have a wider field of view then the Maksutov. The shorter ones have a very wide field of view, but can't give such a sharp image when magnifying. The long refractors should be able to magnify better. But they are longer to handle.

 

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Agree with Dave, Patrick and Linda. Unless you intend to hunt obscure or large field DSO's the Mak will be brill. I'm a Mak convert but I also have reflector and refractor. I use the SW ST80 as my 'grab and go' on a table top mount which has given me some great views and travelled a lot - we have just got back from Morocco - I wouldn't have done that with a reflector!?

Hope that helps!

Edited by Dazzyt66

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If I went for a specific portable I would go for a 72mm ED refractor. The WO ZS-71, the Stellarvue 72 or similar.

I assume the intention is for a nice easy viewing session and while a Mak is small the field of view to me counts against them - I have a 105 Mak. No idea if you have or want a mount, the iOptron SmartEQ is one option but that starts to push the cost up. Have seen a few instances where a 72mm refractor was put on a Skywatcher Alt/Az gogo mount and the result was good. So that is a possible option.

 

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I'm going to give a slightly different opinion. Planetary and lunar observation can be done from pretty much anywhere, light pollution is not a big factor, what matters generally are the seeing conditions and your scopes cooling and collimation.

Getting to a dark site camping gives you access to a whole range of DSOs which will be hard to see from home. Many of these are wonderful with a widefield instrument, frustrating with a smallish aperture with a narrow field of view, and then again wonderful with a large scope with a narrow field of view. We can rule out the large dob, so my money would be on an ST80 or the Starblast 4.5". The Starblast has a reasonable aperture and a shortish focal length. Either of these will allow you to take in the lovely  wide field views of the Milky Way and larger fainter nebulae. Out of the two I would probably go for the 4.5", more aperture equals better views. Collimation is just something you can learn, wrap it up in a duvet and it will be fine. Get a short focal length eye piece if you want some power, that's no problem, get a UHC filter and you will see stuff you struggle to see at home, and get a nice widefield eyepiece too, even something like a 32mm Plossl or a 24mm 68 degree would give you 2.5 degrees of sky, lovely!!

EDIT I say this from experience of numerous camping trips with children! My best experience was probably with a 4" refractor and 8" SCT mounted side by side, best of both worlds there but clearly a little over budget!

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45 minutes ago, Stu said:

EDIT I say this from experience of numerous camping trips with children! My best experience was probably with a 4" refractor and 8" SCT mounted side by side, best of both worlds there but clearly a little over budget!

That's simple then. The topic starter can start with buying the refractor and add an SCT later.

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A friend of mine recently picked up a SW 1145p / Heritage 130p base combination and it's a cracking little scope so I would assume that the Orion Starblast would have a similar performance. Collimation with a Cheshire is also easy as you can reach the primary knobs while looking through the eyepiece and the reflections of the centre spots are large and easy to see. The only downside is that if you don't have something suitably high to put it on there is no photo-tripod adapter like there is on the smaller 100mm reflector/90mm Mak offerings.

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In the US the OneSky  which is the heritage 130p, fairly portable though the mount is rigid and does not collapse. Plenty of aperature but not any good for day time wildlife viewing.

Link here

If a mak or refractor very portable and less vulnerable and can double as a spotting scope.

If lots of people viewing then a tracking mount has advantages like on the Virtuoso.

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Hello all,

I do have an update for you all.  I did select the Sky Watcher Virtuoso as our camping scope. It's supposed to arrive on Saturday...which is nice because we're going camping Sunday!   Just to try and clarify, the reasons I went with the Sky-Watcher over the other contenders were the fact that I probably wouldn't need to collimate a Mak.  Also, the reviews were amazing. Next, I'm not sure that I'll use the tracking system on the Virtuoso.  But I'm glad it's there. For only an additional $40, it seemed like a no-brainier. Also, it seems like the Sky-Watcher comes with more extras than the other scopes I was considering...2 eyepieces, solar filter, and a camera bracket.  I'm not sure I'll use that. If not, I'll give it to someone who can use it. The more I looked at it, the Sky-watcher Virtuoso just seems like it offers everything I wanted in a travel scope, with some extras, for a great deal. Needless to say, I can't wait for it to arrive.

I must admit that this process was a LOT more difficult than I'd envisioned.  Until I pulled the trigger, I don't think the Virtuoso was ever my top choice. But I feel like this is the right scope for us.  Like I said earlier, I'm absolutely, 100% going to buy a Dobsonian very soon...either 8" or 10"...Right now I'm leaning towards the Zhumell Z10, but I'm going to do some research first, and get acquainted with the Virtuoso a bit first. Then I'll decide which size, brand, and options I want. 

I have learned a TON over the past few days. And I truly appreciate all of the friendly advice. Your help has been extremely generous, and I thank you.  I'll keep you all updated as my family gets more involved in the hobby. 

Thanks,
Brad

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Well done with your choice! I'm sure you'll enjoy. Let us know how you get on with it. ?

Edited by Dazzyt66

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Great choice.

Keep the camera bracket it can also be used to either fit a camera or a small refractor depending on what mount type the refractor has.

I can use my Orion ST80 on my virtuoso mount for example.

The mount can also enable astro imaging with a camera and lens for example I was able to take 30 second long exposures with my 85mm lens on the bee hive cluster. I took many and stacked them

If running the mount particularly on batteries be careful with the clutches they really only need to be very gently done up.

To ease leveling I use a small three way plastic caravan spirit level it is clearer then the bobble but that's for tracking.

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Hi. With regards to a home scope maybe look at the skywatcher DOB in 8 or 10 inch, you can get these in the fixed tube type or the collapsed version, these do seem to be popular in the UK and get good reviews so this may be of help to you. But be warned with home scopes you may catch aperture fever? as I know from experience as apurture is king on a like for like basis. 

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9 hours ago, Timebandit said:

Hi. With regards to a home scope maybe look at the skywatcher DOB in 8 or 10 inch, you can get these in the fixed tube type or the collapsed version, these do seem to be popular in the UK and get good reviews so this may be of help to you. But be warned with home scopes you may catch aperture fever? as I know from experience as apurture is king on a like for like basis. 

Thanks for the advice.  I think I've pretty much decided on the Zhumell Z10, unless I get a great deal on something. 

Thanks,

Brad

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Well my Skywatcher arrived Saturday, but unfortunately we had overcast skies and lots of rain.  However, we went camping on Sunday and were blessed with no moon and clear skies.

Even though I didn't have an opportunity to align the viewfinder, sky watching we went.  I used the free Sky View app and quickly located Mars and Jupiter. I started with the wide angle lens, then switched to the 10mm lens after I got the planets centered. We were able to clearly see that Mars is mostly orange. We could make out the cloud bands on Jupiter, although we couldn't see the Red Spot. We could also see 4 of Jupiter's moons. And I'm not exaggerating when I say I felt like a little kid the first time I saw Saturn's rings.

I can tell that I'm going to need decent Barlow lens as soon as we return from our trip. I think I'd also like to get a few better eyepieces. I think I need a 4 to 6mm lens for close ups. Do you all have any advice for decent eyepieces without spending a couple hundred dollars each?

Thanks,
Brad

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The BST ED explorers are popular for a better eyepeice without spending a few hundred dollars each but the name they trade under in the US escapes me right now. I have not personally used them.

When buying eyepeices if you wear glasses you'll want to look for good eye relief.

There are excellent threads on this site on choosing eyepeices, you might want to read them before diving in escpecially if considering another telescope so you can get what works well for both perhaps.

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22 hours ago, Brad737 said:

...And I'm not exaggerating when I say I felt like a little kid the first time I saw Saturn's rings.

I think we've all had that feeling! It doesn't end there btw, I saw the Ring Nebular (M57) for the first time on Sunday and laughed out loud - at 1am in a camping field :)

You're hooked. Welcome to the club!!

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On 06/06/2016 at 21:24, happy-kat said:

The BST ED explorers are popular for a better eyepeice without spending a few hundred dollars each but the name they trade under in the US escapes me right now. I have not personally used them.

Astro Tech Paradigm is the US branding.

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The Zhumell has the best peripherals that are included, which will save one from expenses down the road - such as it's RACI (right-angle correct image) finder-scope. Most everyone ends up buying one of these who buy a Dob, which usually come with a straight-through finder - which is a ticket to a chiropractor trying to use on a Dob.

So - Good Job! That's a great scope! And it can easily show you new & interesting things everynight for the rest of your days.

Now, after the prerequisite 40 days & nights of clouds and storms, we can await your 'First Light' report!

Clear (Ha!) and dark skies,

Dave

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I wouldn't go below 6 or 7 mm on an eyepiece personally , under that ( lunar aside maybe ) and you will need exceptionally good seeing to get any quality views which can mean it rarely gets used. 

 

Nice choice of scope btw , clear skies.

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Remember to keep your exit pupil above 0.7mm or so for best results.  For your f13.9 scope, this would equate to an eyepiece of no shorter than about 10mm (0.7 * 13.9).  Much will depend on your tolerance for floaters in your own eyes at tiny exit pupils.

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