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Recommend a Portable Scope


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I would like to do a bit of astronomy, just basic stuff, moon and planets I think.  Trouble is sky is hardly visible from my small garden because of tall trees at the back, so I need to travel to view and I really want something portable.

I did have a Skywatcher 150PL with EQ-3 mount which I bought on impulse off a friend, but the thing was so big, heavy and cumbersome that I never once used it.  So I sold it last year.

But still interested, so wondering what is the best compromise for something pretty portable.

Cheers,

Nigel

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16 minutes ago, laudropb said:

Given your circumstances I would go for a small Mak such as the Skywatcher 102 or 127 . I would also opt for an AZ Mount.

Thanks,

I posted because I’ve just been out shopping and saw a Celestron 4SE in a high street science shop - not that I would buy it from there, but it prompted me to start thinking.

Given my last experience I’d probably try to get a second had one.

Anything to choose between the Skywatcher, Celestron and Meade offerings.

I’m aware of the limitations of the small Maks but figure if I don’t get something portable then it isn’t going to get used.

What about small refractors - are they worth considering?

Cheers,

Nigel

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If buying new I would probably go for the Skywatcher Skymax 127 AZ5. Based on what I've read here 127 seems to be the goldilocks size for a Mak, being large enough to be useful but not too large to prevent usage. However, you're unlikely to find one second hand as they are pretty new to the market and so you will probably have more luck finding an older Synscan version (plus battery pack) or the scope and suitable AZ mount as separate parts.

Small refractors are worth considering, but for lunar and planetary you will want an (semi) apochromatic scope rather than an achromatic scope which puts the price up. A Skywatcher 80ED or 100ED (maybe too big?) and an AZ4/5 mount are the most likely candidates you will find second hand.

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The 4SE is a very capable little scope. It normally comes with a Go-To Mount. This will add a little weight for transporting it around and you would also require a power source. The ability to track when using high magnifications on the Moon is useful, but not essential. Lots for you to think upon but as you already know, it is important to get a scope that you will use, rather than one that sits gathering dust.

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In terms of portability, and just how light you want to go, it might be useful to decide on the mount first and then the scope. If, for instance, you were looking at one of the new SW Pronto mounts with a decent photo tripod, a 102Mak would probably work OK, but the 127 Mak would be too heavy. (I've owned both) The 127 Mak is a very nice scope but despite its relatively small size its a bit of a "chunk". The 102Mak though will, at a pinch even mount on a photo tripod with a ball head. If on the other hand you were looking at an AZ4 or a Vixen Porta II, the 127Mak would go well. The new AZ5 mount would be an option but I'm not convinced as to the stability of the tripod given the amount of flex it seems to have at the head. You can buy the mount on its own though. Apart from the Maks and depending on your budget you could also look at refractors. The new SW ED72 looks very nice and I have a TS Optics 80mm (f7.5) which though a basic achromat is surprisingly good.

Edited by Alfian
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1 hour ago, Alfian said:

In terms of portability, and just how light you want to go, it might be useful to decide on the mount first and then the scope. If, for instance, you were looking at one of the new SW Pronto mounts with a decent photo tripod, a 102Mak would probably work OK, but the 127 Mak would be too heavy. (I've owned both) The 127 Mak is a very nice scope but despite its relatively small size its a bit of a "chunk". The 102Mak though will, at a pinch even mount on a photo tripod with a ball head. If on the other hand you were looking at an AZ4 or a Vixen Porta II, the 127Mak would go well. The new AZ5 mount would be an option but I'm not convinced as to the stability of the tripod given the amount of flex it seems to have at the head. You can buy the mount on its own though. Apart from the Maks and depending on your budget you could also look at refractors. The new SW ED72 looks very nice and I have a TS Optics 80mm (f7.5) which though a basic achromat is surprisingly good.

 

My general idea is

1) if the moon is particularly nice outside my house, easy enough to bring downstairs and have a look ratherr than thinking it is far to much faff (like with the 150PL) I had

2) to be able to throw into the back of the car and then a single shortish walk at the destination

Basically, it is not so much the weight but being able to carry it all myself in one journey and be relatively simple to set up.

 

The thing with the Skywatcher 150PL I had, basically it needed multiple journies, not so much the weight but because of the awkwardness.  I’d have to carry the (1) tube, (2) mount head (3) tripod (4) weights and other stuff.  Too many journies and too much assembly, disassembly.

So I want to be able to carry in one journey, either in one piece or tube in one hand, tripod in the other.

Bits and pieces in rucksack.

 

Also could anyone explain what cooldown is? I’m guessing it is letting the scope adjust from being brought from the warm indoors to the cold outdoors so that all the mirrors and mechanics need to contract/settle down/demist so that everything is clear and aligned.  Is that correct and how long does that typically take?

 

Cheers,

Nigel

 

 

 

Edited by nheather
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An AZ mount will be a big help to you. They are much easier to set up and usually (always?) lighter than an EQ. I'll let people with more experience of different scopes advise you on which scope, but getting an AZ mount will improve portability and set up time a lot.

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You may even find you can carry a tripod with the telescope attached over one shoulder to take it outside.

A compact telescope with a decent mirror is the Heritage 130p and you can carry it and it's mount in one hand. But unless you have a garden chair to sit on yourself may find the base doesn't work for you, though the telescope can be fitted on other mounts like the tripod Az5 which has slow mo controls and easy to use by all accounts.

 

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22 minutes ago, happy-kat said:

You may even find you can carry a tripod with the telescope attached over one shoulder to take it outside.

A compact telescope with a decent mirror is the Heritage 130p and you can carry it and it's mount in one hand. But unless you have a garden chair to sit on yourself may find the base doesn't work for you, though the telescope can be fitted on other mounts like the tripod Az5 which has slow mo controls and easy to use by all accounts.

 

Thanks - yes I have seen those before and have heard that they are pretty good.  But to be honest I’d be happier to spend more money for something more useable.  I do like the idea of the motor tracking and the goto.

Any idea where I can find the weights of the Skywatcher scopes - their website just says shipping weight 20kg for both the 102 and 127.  I imagine that they are both lighter than that - but guess they are pretty similar as most if the weight will be in the mount/tripod.

Cheers,

Nigel

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TS Optics are usually better than most at giving a fuller specification on equipment. eg:

https://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p1052_Skywatcher-Skymax-102T-OTA-102-mm-Maksutov-Cassegrain-Telescope.html

Its sounding like a decent Alt/Az mount/tripod and compact scope is where its at. I'm kind of hunting around for a similar setup to use when away in a caravan and possibly going down the DIY mix and match idea but I'd also looked at this, amongst others (a lot of choice), which looks useful:

https://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p9334_TS-Optics-Tilting-Head-and-Altazimuth-Mount-for-photo-tripods.html

The Heritage 130p, as happy-kat works well on an alt/az mount (with a vixen dovetail clamp) and for its aperture, scopes don't come more compact.

Regarding cool down you are pretty much spot on, allowing temperatures to equalise and thermal currents to dissipate. Cool down time hinges on type of scope and size. I've found with my refractors (80mm & 100mm) I'm pretty much good to go once setup although it does improve with time, along with the night vision. The 127 Mak definitely needs a good half an hour or so  before you are cooking, where as the 102 Mak seemed to need only 15 mins. That said I tend to keep my scopes in a cool place  to start off with.

 

 

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The heritage 130p is fully manual and the telescope and the mount together I am pretty sure weigh well under 7 kilos. I know the telescope weighs 3.4 kilos as I weighed mine.

Sometimes sellers list the weight, like FirstLightOptics.

The thing with goto is you need power and they do not like running on rechargeable AAA batteries as they do not provide enough power. I have a LiFePo4 which is very compact and very light which I use on the Virtuoso mount.

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What about this.

AZ GTi

The AzGti gives both manual (useful what power dies) and GOTO through a tablet (or phone). Bundles with a 102 or 127mm mak as well as options. 127mm bundle is the same price as the 4SE but way more aperture.

Edited by happy-kat
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21 minutes ago, happy-kat said:

What about this.

AZ GTi

The AzGti gives both manual (useful what power dies) and GOTO through a tablet (or phone). Bundles with a 102 or 127mm mak as well as options. 127mm bundle is the same price as the 4SE but way more aperture.

Now this looks interesting.  As you say there is also a 127 version.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/sky-watcher-az-gti-wifi/sky-watcher-skymax-127-az-gti.html

 

Will look into this a little more.

Cheers,

Nigel

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I agree with those above, for portability, it is hard to beat the 127mm Mak, on an Az/Alt mount. Many years ago, I bought the Celestron Astromaster 130EQ-MD, on its EQ mount, and found it difficult to set up, and get the motor drive to track. So I went for the Skywatcher Skymax 127, with the Synscan GoTo. I liked it so much that I got a second one to take to my holiday home in France. The OTA is really solid, and I have not had to touch the collimation in either. The whole kit is portable, the photo below gives you an idea, and the whole lot, with a couple of sets of batteries, and a few eyepieces is under 11kg. This setup gets more use than the rest combined.

5addaca710216_SkymaxBackpack-Annotated(R).thumb.jpg.c4f8a2a348edac8d7fbd3ffcc91875b7.jpg

The AZ-GTI mount is a more recent addition, and introduces releasable clutches so that you can use it unpowered. I prefer the real buttons of a handset, rather than the virtual ones on the touch-screen of a tablet or phone.

Geoff

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11 minutes ago, happy-kat said:

Can you manually move the telescope off those mounts if the battery goes flat? 

I'm not sure that you can manually move it, I guess I could read the manual to check.

Skymax - NO,       AZ-GTI - YES

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Don't want to hijack thread but does anyone know if the AZ GTI tripod will go in cabin baggage? (ie. collapsed its 55cm or less). Reason I ask is pretty much same as poster in that i'm after a truly portable set-up which I can take to my regular trips to Spain in my hand baggage. 

Thanks

Paul

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Given that the AZ GTI mount manual shows the extended height as 1100mm (110cm), and the lower leg sections fit inside the upper sections, it is unlikely that it will fit, even diagonally, in a 55 x 40 x 25 cm bag. I measured the tripod supplied with my Skymax mount, and it is 68cm long fully collapsed. You will need the Ryanair/EasyJet (other budget airlines are available) greatcoat with deep poacher's pockets. I have a multi-pocketed gillet for air travel, but the pockets are not deep enough for a tripod. The budget airlines' check-in queues often have people wearing strange clothing (I've been behind someone in a fluffy dressing gown) to stay within the cabin baggage size or weight restrictions.

However, the manual also indicates that the mount's head will fit on a photographic tripod, fitted with a 3/8" - 16 UNC male thread. It may be possible to get a smaller camera tripod + 1/4" - 20 UNC female to 3/8" - 16 UNC male adaptor sleeve (I got a couple on EBay to tripod-mount my Virtuoso Dob base).

Geoff

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I will say the startravel 102 refractor is a great scope, nice small size. The widefield views are nice and crisp, everyone points to the CA these scopes can show but really it isnt noticable down to 10mm eyepieces.. You will get a thin violet pencil line around the moon below this but the image is still very crisp.

I had some neighbors looking through it last weekend, one of them owned a reflector of similar size and said he much preferred the views through the refractor.

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Is the Celestron equivalent SLT 127 Nexstar better quality than a SW? Does the Celestron offer any advantages over a SW 127? The former has 3 different power options; AA batteries, AC or power tank. Nicer looks as well.

Edited by 25585
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On 22/4/2018 at 13:44, nheather said:

Now this looks interesting.  As you say there is also a 127 version.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/sky-watcher-az-gti-wifi/sky-watcher-skymax-127-az-gti.html

 

Will look into this a little more.

Cheers,

Nigel

WOW. We look at scopes all the time here and the 127 on Az Mount is a popular combo suggested to people looking for something portable. The scope and mount above, really caught my eye and made me take a 2nd,3rd look. Don't believe I've seen it before. I'm liking it. I'd be interested in learning more about the WiFi function if anyone had any info. I'm not looking for a scope or anything right now, I was just taken by this. 

Edited by LukeSkywatcher
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2 hours ago, LukeSkywatcher said:

WOW. We look at scopes all the time here and the 127 on Az Mount is a popular combo suggested to people looking for something portable. The scope and mount above, really caught my eye and made me take a 2nd,3rd look. Don't believe I've seen it before. I'm liking it. I'd be interested in learning more about the WiFi function if anyone had any info. I'm not looking for a scope or anything right now, I was just taken by this. 

Interesting package but the tripod looks weedy. I would want a corded handset so an extra £165.

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Hard to tell if tripod is up to the job. Its tubular so should be sturdier than square or rectangular legs. I did notice no handset. I suppose with the scope being wifi and able to be controlled by phone or tablet that a handset isn't needed. WiFi isn't always reliable so I tend to agree that I'd feel happier with hand set and battery pack. 

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The az gti is a great versatile mount, tripod issues for going in hand luggage is easy solved by using a portable photography tripod, the head can now be attached to skywatcher wedge and the firmware has been upgraded to allow use in eq format,, power wise run from double a batteries,, nice and light as mounts go. Operated via app for smartphone,tablet, ascom support for use via a laptop,, 

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