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Hi All

I'm a newbie and looking at getting my first telescope. I'm sure my question has been asked many times in one form or another so please excuse me for asking again.

I'm not sure what type of field my interest will be as planetary, deep sky etc so I'm looking at some thing that is a good all-rounder and easy to use. I've excluded Dobsonian scopes as they wont work in my garden due to surrounding obstructions and which a tripod will be best suited 🙂. My budget is £400 and I'd prefer new rather than second hand (Snobbery not intended):

 

  • Sky-watcher Explorer 130P go-to; this looks like a well made scope from my research. Appears to have a well made focuser, it can be collimated, it will take both 2" and 1.25" eyepieces, believe its F5. Best price seen is £315 and would mean I could purchase some accessories such as new eyepieces 2", laser collimator, filters and so on. Concern; aperture is only 130mm and may have limited viewing capabilities.
  • Sky-watcher Star Discovery P150I WIFI; has a large aperture and is F5 so reasonably wide views. free intuitive app, Freedom find capable. Concern; cannot be collimated (Albeit there is a bit of room to adjust slightly via secondary mirror and also adjusting the primary mirror screws), focuser not greatest quality. Best price seen is £377
  • Sky-watcher Sky-Max 127 Maksutov Casagraine go-to; Looks well made and appears to have very good lenses/mirrors and has some really good reviews, rarely requires collimating etc. Concern; Appears to be more planetary specific, cool down period appears to be fairly inconveniently long, 90 degree piece looks a little cheap (being petty a bit). Best Price seen £388.

 

Would really appreciate comments, and my current favourite is the 150 only due to the fact that I can upgrade the focuser at a later date.

Thank you all 🙂

Edited by Portech7

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Hi and welcome to SGL.

For a starter, general purpose instrument, I would go with one of the first two. Don't discount the abilities of the 130P (there's a newbie review here), but conventional wisdom is that aperture is king and 150 will give you brighter views than 130.

Whichever you choose, I note your prices are slightly lower than those on the FLO website, but they do offer "Price matching". Even if they cannot match the offer you have seen for some reason, I would still say it would be worth an extra couple of quid to buy from an astro dealer with a great returns policy.

Don't know where you are located, but do you have a nearby astro society? If they have an "open evening" (and many do) it may be worth going along and chatting to members. You may even get to look through one or both of the scopes (or, indeed, all three - the 127 is a great performer, but possibly not such an all-round instrument as the other two) which might help you decide.

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4 hours ago, Portech7 said:

I've excluded Dobsonian scopes as they wont work in my garden due to surrounding obstructions and which a tripod will be best suited

You can raise a Dob if you need to see the horizon, but looking at targets far from zenith, due to the longer light path through a distorted atmosphere, could  possibly limit the  ability to see targets as sharp as they could be, compared to when looking up, unless the seeing is perfect. 

Also with any scope that needs to be 'up there' do consider the reach  and angle required to  look through the eyepiece on certain setups.

Do consider portability too. If you're  surrounded by structures and  light pollution, nothing beats observing from a remote and less, light  polluted site.

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All three are sensible choices, as is opting for GoTo.  You would not regret buying a Maksutov and I continue to use mine regularly.  I have not found cool-down to be a serious issue - just get it outside some time in advance of your more critical observations.  The relatively narrow field of view may or may not be an issue for you - I added a f5 Startravel to my line-up and then rarely used it😦.  I have never had any need to collimate mine. You WILL need a dew shield, but you can make one yourself.

 The 150 Star Discovery is supposed to be an entry level instrument which is why the collimation is fixed - if you feel the need to collimate it, then it's time to upgrade to something else. 😀

For all these, budget for some additional eyepieces, as those supplied won't do the instruments justice.  I could be ruder about some of the eyepieces that came with mine.😡  Don't rush to buy filters as these are of marginal usefulness.

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Hi @Portech7 and welcome to SGL. :hello2:

Good advice given already. Most 'scopes are not 'all-rounder' and many SGL'ers, (if you look at the signatures... mine included :evil62:), often have more than one or one type.

The beauty of the Dobsonian is that it is a cinch to setup, place it on any near level surface and you are done. With a tripod it needs to be sturdy. If it has an equatorial mount, it will need to be polar aligned, plus the eyepiece can end up at all angles, though none if it has an alt-az mount.

Best advice at the moment is to visit your local astro club/society or star-party and see what others are using, have a look through them, then decide.

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Hi All

Firstly, appreciate the kind welcome 😀

All your comments do help as there are so many types and so many variables I think the first scope will be as much as learning curve as anything else.

I'm South Wales near Bridgend and I have looked at local clubs and there are a few around so its definitely worth me trying.

Ref the scopes, I've spoken to a few good Camera shops and astronomy shops which are a few miles of me and they have all proven very helpful and offer discounts and the prices I mentioned, and I believe they all have reasonable returns policies etc.

I'd love the Dobsonian but without great knowledge of the skies I'd struggle to find anything which may frustrate, hence the go-to makes it a lot easier to start with. I'm sure a few years down the line I'll be more confident and invest in one, albeit I would have to take it to some near by places with less obstructions.

Thanks for all your experienced help all and I'll let you know which I choose shortly 😀

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Just to throw a bit of a spanner in the works, you can purchase a Dob with GOTO.. however it does push up the cost.

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How quick do you  need to learn the skies, is there any rush, just enjoy  the process of learning,  and if you purchase a tracking Go-To,system and you fail to set it up correctly, possibly more frustration until you learn how it all works.

You can spend a fortune on either scope ( if your talking Dobs ) but loads more on the electrics and tracking, yet both scopes will probably give you just the same size and detailed image when conditions allow.

For visual only observations, a good aperture is required, and a manual system will cost considerably less than one fully automated, and a doddle to use.

 

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Charic

I have considered a manual scope and in fact I actually appreciate the equatorial mount engineering side too (I maybe a tad sad saying that 😀). Even my wife thinks I'd be better off with a manual scope on an equatorial (Dob really isn't convenient for me for a few reasons).

I know I listed 3 goto type scopes, but I really have been torn between the goto and the manual and you are totally spot on when you say 'how quick do you need to learn the skies' , I don't have an answer and I do agree with the statement. Its meant to be an enjoyable and relaxing hobby taking us out of the daily hustle and bustle, well that's my reason for wanting to start. If I can get a little photography in too then that would be a bonus, but small steps first.

You really have me thinking again which is very good, better to think and even change the mind now rather than when its bought and stuck with it, so I do appreciate your comments.

There is one I looked at in depth which was the sky-watcher explorer 150P Eq3-2. Understand the tripod isn't the most stable, but there are plenty of options to better that side of things.

The 150PDS is within the £400 budget I've given myself but the 150P is sufficient and theres also a bit of room for some accessories such as the laser collimator and some eyepieces of a sort. Think the 150P now comes with a 2" focuser and 1.25" adapter. Great price on FLO too.

Right, so I do have some thoughts I need to take away with me to ponder on.

I appreciate your comments and they are very helpful. Same for the others who commented on my post so thank you all. I'll add an update on here once decided and purchased.

 

Cheers All and thank you for the welcome.

Edited by Portech7
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3 hours ago, Portech7 said:

I know I listed 3 goto type scopes, but I really have been torn between the goto and the manual and you are totally spot on when you say 'how quick do you need to learn the skies' , I don't have an answer and I do agree with the statement. Its meant to be an enjoyable and relaxing hobby taking us out of the daily hustle and bustle, well that's my reason for wanting to start.

I spent decades with nothing more than binoculars before I bought a telescope - no "goto" there - and learned the sky pretty well. This is a good skill to have, but it is actually independent of the telescope. I have a goto setup because I want to spend my time observing/capturing my chosen object rather than chasing/finding it. If the hunt is part of what inspires you, then go manual. If the "hunt" is just a way to get to the "kill" then go goto and save yourself the trouble.

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5 hours ago, Demonperformer said:

If the hunt is part of what inspires you, then go manual. If the "hunt" is just a way to get to the "kill" then go goto and save yourself the trouble.

Spot on advice. Once you have mastered how to use GoTo, you can do so much more with the outfit, and save time and effort. Finding objects in daylight is just one example.

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If you want to become an astrophotographer, then think more towards the mount for stability and reliable  tracking. The mount needs to be solid, stable and reliable.
Any telescope up on a flimsy mount can act like a sail in the wind and induce movement during image taking.

From a good book I own, Making Every Photon Count, available from first light optics, I know the author uses an 80mm Refractor for a lot of his work when the book was written. For visual use, you still need aperture, the more the better.

Checking user signatures on these forums, you will find some folk have more  than one scope specific for their task. With todays sensors, astrophotography requires time and stable tracking in order to get the best images. larger apertures are not essential for camera work, but visual only, the more aperture you can carry, and the darker the site, the greater the reward.

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Hi All

On top of the many months of research, I've spent today looking at scopes, learning polar alignment, researching calibration of a polar alignment scopes and identifyied Polaris in the night sky and I do believe an equatorial mount is the way to go rather than Go-to, so I'll be getting the Sky-watcher explorer 150P on an eq3-2 mount with the polar alignment scope, a laser collimator and a few other bits. I want to learn to be very precise when setting up and observing as this will make me better and help learn more.

I understand its not the best mount for photography but I want to learn the sky and educate myself to gain experience, and the scope mentioned is a good all rounder to help me do this.

This leaves me with future options. If I do end up wanting to go the photographic route then I can look at another mount at a later date, but for now I think I'd rather see the and learn the night sky and become more knowledgeable in this area, I can then go from there.

Really appreciate all your comments, suggestions and guidance as it has actually helped me more than you know.

Cheers all, will be back on line telling everyone what I've observed in the night sky over the next few weeks.

Cheers All 😀

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Are you sure about the EQ mount? It's a fantastic concept but the problem is that it is difficult to move from one star to the next. You want to go left but you have to zigzag. EQ for visual is fairly unpopular here. You've gone from goto to EQ but an AZ mount is the simplest to use and set up. 

Does anyone else have thoughts on a manual EQ mount? I'm reluctant to put myself forward as an expert but 'Don't go manual EQ' is the one thing I'd tell a beginner.

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I would not worry about EQ for just visual. For imaging it is nigh-on essential. You can do visual on EQ but a game pad plugged-in helps.

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I do use a manual EQ mount (with dual axis drives) sometimes but generally only for planetary, solar and lunar observing when I am using high power and just concentrate on one object at a time. The tracking is very useful and I'm not looking for other objects so am not inconvenienced by the challenges of the EQ mount.

For star hopping I normally use a manual AltAz mount, as Domstar says it is a much more intuitive way to find your way around the sky.

That said, if you are doing it in order to teach yourself the basic principles of polar alignment and setting up the mount correctly then that may make sense. I'm not sure how sturdy the 3-2 is, would it be ok with the 150P?

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FLO do a 150p/AZ4 combo that I would choose over the 150p/EQ3-2 to avoid Newtonian focuser rotation. 

You also need a cheshire/sight tube for secondary mirror collimation and I would add a barlow if you want a laser collimator so that you can use the barlowed laser method for primary collimation.

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On ‎09‎/‎11‎/‎2018 at 19:22, Portech7 said:

I'd love the Dobsonian but without great knowledge of the skies I'd struggle to find anything which may frustrate, hence the go-to makes it a lot easier to start with.

Have you changed your mind here? The same remarks apply to manual equatorial mounts with small setting circles. I know, because I've tried. If you think you will easily find anything smaller  than the Pleiades using the setting  circles on an EQ3-2, then I expect you are going to be disappointed.  Setting circles are only useful when they are a serious size - I have seen some in vintage observatories that were 2 ft across.

You can also 'learn the sky' with a basic alt-azimuth mount.

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10 hours ago, Portech7 said:

I do believe an equatorial mount is the way to go rather than Go-to, so I'll be getting the Sky-watcher explorer 150P on an eq3-2 mount

My first scope was a Celestron ( bought it second hand, and I was not experienced enough to know any better at the time, but learning from mistakes is sometimes the way  we learn and move on! )  and that scope was very similar to your  intended 150, although your 150P has a slightly sturdier mount, but I'm glad I chose to order another scope the next night!
I found the scope easy to understand, I set it up correctly, collimated the thing, and even though 'factory set',  I thought I could better the setup, as not much can go wrong, but the faff to move from one target to the next was just too time consuming, constantly adjusting locks and turning slo-mo adjusters is not what you want to be doing on your first and subsequent nights.

That scope was left for a long time before I tried it again, this time  having a complete overhaul, strip-down, cleaned,  rebuilt, collimated and its still no better visually with the results obtained through the eyepiece, and between the two scopes, Celestron and my present Skywatcher, the ease of use, setup and reliability  of the Skyliner is second to none.

I'm still uncertain as to why a Dobsonian is totally unsuitable for your garden, unless your garden is only an alleys width?
I've got 2 mtr fencing and structures all round, but the Dob works just fine on the sky that's visible to me.

I've even read on some forums, folk favouring a Newtonian over the Dobsonian because the Dob is heavy, cumbersome, basic?

The decision is entirely yours and what ever you get, it will work as the designer intended ( if you believe all the hype ) but not all scopes are equal in merit or performance.
My Skyliner 200P is available  from our sponsor for £275 new ( there's a customer return @ £247) if your quick, and quoted as being the UK's most popular Dobsonian, doesn't make it the best for some folk, but it has many virtues that will impress and make for a great scope, for some time to come, until you get aperture fever?

I had the fever for a short while, but seem to be over it for now, but it can be caught ever-so-quickly at short notice. 


 

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