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A versatile travel setup. But what?

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At the end of March I am looking to buy an ultra-portable setup for travel (holidays with the family and the odd business trip) as well as back-garden jaunts.  It should also deliver good white-light solar and maybe H-alpha (although I'm open to the idea of a PST as well). I'll be asking a lot of this scope - it will need to be good for rich field views but also be able to withstand cranking up the magnification for lunar and planetary and for doubles.  Likely to be almost solely used for visual.  The mount will need to be light but robust - perhaps I could make use of a reasonable camera tripod that came with my 20x80 binoculars (which I'll be selling) although I also have a SW stainless tripod knocking about that I could use, although that limits taking it on a flight.

At a similar time I'm planning to finally invest in a small set of Ethos - most likely the 3.7mm, 13mm and 21mm so it would be good if the scope could accommodate 2" barrels.
Ideally I don't want to spend more than around £500 unless there was a very good reason to do so and residuals were strong (although I anticipate holding onto this scope).
Current shortlist for the scope:
  • SW ED80
  • William Optics ZenithStar 71 (would probably need to go used for this)
  • Altair Astro Starwave 80ED
  • TV60 (I'd be very naughty if I did this)
For the mount, I've not yet given it much thought.
As the kind a knowledgeable people on this forum are expert at helping people spend money wisely, I'd appreciate your thoughts.  Anything I've missed?  What ultra-portable setups work well for you?
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This has been my main travel set up for the past couple of years Paul - camera tripod with 7kg payload, mini giro and Equinox 80ED. Aircraft cabin friendly for abroad. Great for white light solar. Has shown me more than 50 Messiers, and perfectly capable of 170x. The Equinox has a couple of advantages over the pro Skywatcher 80ED - compactness with its retractable dew shield and more robust build quality. But the pro is cheaper, and with its increased focal length a better choice for planets and moon. 

All depends on whether you want a scope to take on flights or not? 


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The above 80mm f/7 is only 460mm long when it's retracted. If its price is justified (the price of my TS 80mm f/6 triplet is ENTIRELY justified), it should have super-fine gears and lenses. Seems to be a new generation of FPL-53 glass doublet, with a better-driven 2.5" rack-and-pinion focuser. I wish I had tried it but I have not. :dontknow:

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Interested to see what advice you get on this as I'd been wondering about a travel set up too. The Starwave 70ed and Lightwave 72edr caught my eye, particularly as they can sit on a standard threaded photography tripod which fits in a small rucksack and weighs next to nowt. If the travel was always in a car (so no flights, biking or hiking) then the SW80ed does look tempting, but my ideal travel scope would be more DSO focused... planets, lunar and solar are all visible from home and the dob (or st102 for solar) is brilliant on them.

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My travel set up (which is now packed for a 6 week New Zealand trip due next week) is tried and tested and dual astrophotography and visual

WO SD66, 1.25 diagonal and 9 mm Nagler and a few WO eyepieces with field flattner with canon eos adaptor


Star adventurer and SA Astronomy bundle (was Astrotrac but superceded by this for portability)


carbon fibre tripod


canon 600 astro modified and various lenses and clip filters


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If you hold fire on your set of Ethi and put some of that money into the scope itself, you're in seriously good optics territory! 

I'm thinking about 90mm to 100mm apo's by WO and Tak. A few years ago my friend paulastro bought a 90mm WO triplet. It was only small bodily but optically stunning! They come up second hand and would leave you plenty for your eyepiece collection.

Alternatively, following Stu's lead and using a Tak FC100DC or DF which can be dismantled for travel purposes, would give you a lightweight travel scope that's top class. Or, perhapse a second hand Sky 90 would fit the bill with its ultrawide field and high power capability?


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19 hours ago, FenlandPaul said:

That's a nice looking scope, Mark.  How do you find the mini-Giro?  Looks pleasantly simple; do you use counterweights with that particular scope?

Mini giro is great for this purpose Paul - takes seconds to set up and very user friendly, though the larger giros offer more precise control. I do use a counterweight - but it's not essential if you have to travel light.

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