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'Toy' Telescopes?


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I've fancied a refractor telescope for a long, long time now...  I guess it stems from looking at the cheap Tasco versions over the decades, but being put off by the poor reviews and the advice of the late Sir Patrick Moore.  I've seen some recently that look not too bad, just for casual observing, certainly easier to set up (hopefully) than my reflectors.

My question is, would these be classified as 'toy' telescopes?

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/sky-watcher-mercury-707-az-telescope.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/celestron-astromaster-70az-refractor-telescope-with-smartphone-adapter-and-moon-filter.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/celestron-astromaster-80eq-md-refractor-telescope-with-motor-drive-smartphone-adapter.html

Edited by Guest
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No, this would be a toy telescope.  I actually bought one for $25 a few months back.  It comes with non-standard fittings (looks like 0.965", but it's not), a wobbly table-top tripod, super long barlows, two 30mm aperture stops, one behind the 70mm achromat and one midway down the focuser tube, and Huygens eyepieces.  I bought it for the 70mm achromat and metal tube that are actually pretty decent.  From that, I've been adapting it to a 2" diagonal finder.

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when you say "easier to set up", what reflectors do you have and are you having to dismantle, move to viewing location and assemble?

A refractor can be the same effort, unless you're needing to collimate the reflector of course. At least with those listed you aren't talking heavy mount and counterweights and a manageable tube length. My TAL100RS with EQ5 and weights is over 30KG so I have to de-mount the OTA and weights to safely move it out past the glass in the conservatory as its way too unwieldy to risk all assembled. So in fact takes me slightly longer than the lighter SW130/EQ2 where I just leave the weight on.

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3 minutes ago, Louis D said:

No, this would be a toy telescope.  I actually bought one for $25 a few months back.  It comes with non-standard fittings (looks like 0.965", but it's not), a wobbly table-top tripod, super long barlows, two 30mm aperture stops, one behind the 70mm achromat and one midway down the focuser tube, and Huygens eyepieces.  I bought it for the 70mm achromat and metal tube that are actually pretty decent.  From that, I've been adapting it to a 2" diagonal finder.

Looks terrible in the advertisement!:shocked:

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1 hour ago, DaveL59 said:

when you say "easier to set up", what reflectors do you have and are you having to dismantle, move to viewing location and assemble?

A refractor can be the same effort, unless you're needing to collimate the reflector of course. At least with those listed you aren't talking heavy mount and counterweights and a manageable tube length. My TAL100RS with EQ5 and weights is over 30KG so I have to de-mount the OTA and weights to safely move it out past the glass in the conservatory as its way too unwieldy to risk all assembled. So in fact takes me slightly longer than the lighter SW130/EQ2 where I just leave the weight on.

I was looking for something with a simple Alt-Azimuth mount , something that could go in a vehicle and not to worry to much about the OTA.  Also something not too expensive.

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ah fair enough. Can't really say on those you listed, I'd guess the 80 with slightly more aperture might be better, but I'm sure someone will be along who can give a more experienced opinion :) 

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I am sorry to say every refractor you linked to is really more toy than telescope. For a decent refractor you are looking at something over £200 not including the mount. In that price range the best I have found is the Skywatcher EVOStar 120. It is £269 and comes with everything you need to view with. In terms of mounts you have two choices that are easy on the wallet yet will do what you want.

The first is a full GOTO mount controlled by a smartphone. It is the Skywatcher AZ-GTi. The 120 is at the top end of the rated weight capacity and the moment arm is going to be somewhat troublesome which will translate into some shakes as you focus. Not huge ones and not for a super long time, likely under about 1 second. I used an AZ-GTi with a Tele Vue NP101is and it was about 1.5 kg over the rated weight. There were shakes but they settled in about 1 second and I knew going in there would be shakes. I was fine with that. The nice feature of this mount is that you can use the GOTO when you want, slip the clutches, star hop, then reengage the clutches and the mount doesn't lose its alignment. So you get the best of both worlds. It is going to be £215.

The second mount would be the Skywatcher AZ5. It is a fully manual alt/az mount. It will likely have some shakes as well when you focus but again not too bad. It is £139. 

The refractor is actually stupid simple to operate. No collimation required. Cool down time is also much shorter than a reflector over 150mm and with one that is between 127 and 150 the refractor will still cool faster. You just toss it gently in the car with the mount, go to the site you want to observe from, set it up, and you are off to the races. No fussing about with collimation and your wait time for cool down is much less. However you are spending quite a bit more than the scopes you listed. Links to the aforementioned are:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/evostar/skywatcher-evostar-120-ota.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/alt-azimuth/sky-watcher-az-gti-wifi-alt-az-mount-tripod.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/alt-azimuth/sky-watcher-az5-deluxe-alt-azimuth-mount.html

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I've owned the metcury 705 it came on an Az3. I've kept the tripod but sold the mercury and bought instead the startravel 80. I like using the tripod it has quirks but easy to work around. It is more of a wide field telescope but I love the sharpness of stars and colours and the chromatic aberration on the Moon was ok but strong on Jupiter.

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My experience of small refractors is limited.  I had a 70/700 mm refractor I bought at a Lidl store for very little money.  The objective lens, I eventually concluded, was no good, and the mount & tripod (a EQ-2 clone) too wobbly for my liking.  I also have a 70mm vintage Ross which does everything a 70mm telescope should, but is long, heavy and requires a mount in the AZ-4 or EQ-5 class.  So my advice is: avoid the cheapies and be prepared to spend a bit more for a quality instrument on a decent mount.

For reference, my 102mm f5 Startravel comes with some chromatic and other aberrations but is nicely made with metal parts rather than plastic. They cost around £230 for the telescope alone (no mount).

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I started out with a refractor smaller than those. I would have given my right arm for an 80mm !

My old (1960's) Tasco 60mm had good optics (Japanese) but a wobbly mount and poor eyepieces. It still showed me lots of things including a few of the brighter galaxies. More than enough to get me hooked on the hobby !.

I still have it up in the loft.

 

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I remember the days of owning a small Tasco refractor 2” I believe back in the early part of the 80,s as John said once upon a time thay actually made half decent optics in few of there scopes unfortunately in this day and age avoid like the plague!!?the brand kind of joined the band wagon and went down the department store,Argos route with unbelievable claims on the side of the box 525x,650x magnification power etc with pretty little pictures of blown up constellations and planets and for the most part from a beginners point of veiw often felt very disappointed like myself.some of the later models I found some of the lenses were actually made of plastic also.saying that tho I managed to pick up a scope which was 60mm Refractor on azimuth mount from back in the day when it was called Dixon’s model ASTRO 400 or something similar in brand name really great little scope.then on a different note even tho I respected Patrick Moore dearly for his knowledge of Amateur Astronomy and patron of my local society I truly feel he was not always right on his debate on 3” refractors, 6” reflectors are the only scope worth having as remember telescope house in Farringdon rd and peter gallon which also used to be a member of my society unfortunately put some prospect customers off.and lastly on a different note did,nt Issac Newton start off with an 2” reflector!? And made some major discoveries please correct me if I’m wrong And all I can say now thank god for the like,s of skywatcher bringing good quality affordable,amateur telescopes to the market from beginning level and more advanced amateur Astronomer 

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13 hours ago, merlin100 said:

I was looking for something with a simple Alt-Azimuth mount , something that could go in a vehicle and not to worry to much about the OTA.  Also something not too expensive.

What would be too expensive?

Here is rather good little scope that will outclass all of the above and it does not cost much:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-90-ota.html

It is also compact and easy to carry. Pair that with Az-EQ Avant mount and you have nice combination.

If you really want a refractor telescope, then I would say - I think 70/700 mercury probably has decent optics (not 100% sure on that one), however mechanically it is a toy.

Focuser is poor 1.25" unit, and OTA is probably fitted with plastic things (like maybe dew shield is plastic - I know Celestron models have plastic dew shield).

Here are a few decent contenders for a nice small refractor scope:

All rounder, but most expensive:

https://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p1151_TS-Optics-70-mm-F6-ED-Travel-Refractor-with-modern-2--RAP-Focuser.html

Want low power views? Sure - 2" focuser - just add long FL eyepiece. Want to have a peak at planets and the Moon - sure - just add a barlow and short FL eyepiece and you'll be viewing at x140 in no time.

It has retractable dew shield, very nice focuser and it is solidly built.

Next contender:

http://www.opticstar.com/Run/Astronomy/Astro-Telescopes-Opticstar.asp?p=0_10_1_1_65

90mm F/8.8 achromat. I've heard good things about these scopes.

Then there is this one:

http://www.opticstar.com/Run/Astronomy/Astro-Telescopes-Opticstar.asp?p=0_10_1_1_54

But it looks it is out of stock for quite some time now. Maybe seeking second hand offer on that one?

Maybe this one sports same optics?

https://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p7935_TS-Optics-80-600mm-Refractor-Teleskope---optical-tube-with-rings.html

However, it seems to have similar mechanics to low cost units. Focuser is metallic but still 1.25" unit.

It is really shame that 70/700 does not come with better body and focuser. There is also 70/500 btw - which would be better if you are interested in wide field observing more than high power.

ST 80 F/5 is really classical fast achromat that will be also good for low power viewing.

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Hello. If I was in your shoes and did not want a toy but a "proper" refractor at sensible money. I would up your budget a bit, and keep an eye on the SGL sales section. And wait for a used SW 100ed to come up for sales, and then I would keep a look out for a used AZ4 to mount it on. You would have a quality refractor set up that would give cracking views and last you many years.

Hope this helps

 

 

 

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Tasco was a reseller of scopes in the early days and back in the 60s sold some very good scopes with top quality Japanese optics. Unfortunately it all went downhill in the 70s when they went downmarket selling cheap rubbish scopes. What used to be a good brand became instead known for their cheap and nasty department store scopes. 

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My wife and I have a Skywatcher ST102, we bought it knowing full well it’s lunar and planetary limitations. 
we wanted something that would give us wide field views of star clusters such as the Pleiades, and I can honestly say that it does not disappoint, only recently we were looking at the Beehive Cluster with a Vixen slv 20mm the view was stunning, no ca whatsoever, my only grumble would be the focuser, I find it quite course.
I believe that at f4.9 it can be hard on eyepieces, we have mainly Vixen eyepieces either slv, npl, and the older lv series and these only have a 50 degree afov, 45 for the lvs, but the 30mm npl gives a huge 3 degrees tfov, We also have an 8mm 60 degree BST Starguider and stars are sharp more or less to the edge.
Would I recommend this scope? - IF you know and accept it’s limitations, then yes I would, very much so, we think that for what it is, it is a cracking little scope, unfortunately it has wet my appetite for something better, an ed doublet perhaps. 
The price was £165.00 for the ota only as I already have a mount.

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If you want something useable above a 'Toy' level, but at 'toy' price check out these:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/skywatcher-heritage-130p-flextube.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/skywatcher-heritage-100p-tabletop-dobsonian.html

Or push the boat out just a little and try https://www.firstlightoptics.com/dobsonians/skywatcher-skyliner-150p-dobsonian.html#

For a Beginner a Dobsonian reflector maybe a lot easier to set up than spinning things around on a tripod

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2 hours ago, JOC said:

If you want something useable above a 'Toy' level, but at 'toy' price check out these:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/skywatcher-heritage-130p-flextube.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/skywatcher-heritage-100p-tabletop-dobsonian.html

Or push the boat out just a little and try https://www.firstlightoptics.com/dobsonians/skywatcher-skyliner-150p-dobsonian.html#

For a Beginner a Dobsonian reflector maybe a lot easier to set up than spinning things around on a tripod

I've already got the Sky-Watcher Skyliner 200P Dobsonian. 😉

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Have you considered any of the smaller travel scopes? The Celestron 70mm gets nice reviews other than the dodgy tripod. All depends if you're happy to accept it'll be limited in terms of the dimmer DSO's because of the smaller aperture. I think Orion do an 80mm one too. 

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Buy yourself a decent pair of  Binoculars, they would offer some decent views of the night sky
8x50's would be fine for both terrestrial and sky views.  
Serious observational Astronomy demands a good quality instrument, and they
really do not come cheap.
You could of course look in the used equipment classifieds,
good bargains can be secured in those. Choose a forum based sales though, you are much less likely
to be ripped off.
Ron.

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On 04/05/2020 at 08:52, merlin100 said:

I've already got the Sky-Watcher Skyliner 200P Dobsonian. 😉

Avoid achromats then.  If you're used to the sharp, color-free image of a reflector, you won't like the reduced contrast inherent in an achromat because all the colors don't focus tightly together.  I'd look for a used 72ED scope and a decent side-mount alt-az unit to go with it.  It will nicely complement your Dob.

I bought an ST80 20 years ago and couldn't stand the poor images, so I rarely used it.  About 7 years ago, I bought a used Astro Tech 72ED and absolutely loved the pin sharp stars in it.  So much so, I bought a used 90mm TS APO triplet recently to gain a bit in light gathering and color correction without getting too much larger.  However, it cost 4 times as much as the 72.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'll offer my thoughts as a new starter with a small refractor, though you already have more experienced comments.
I have a cheap 70/700 (sounds like the same one Cosmic Geoff mentions above) - a Bresser Skylux that LIDL occasionally feature. Although very cheap, it does have an EQ mount that looks more substantial than any of the three you point out (there's an item on it here: https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/199746-bresser-eq-mount-motor-drive/

although Bresser have also supplied the same scope on alt-az mounts that look less good. It's probably worth more than what I paid for the whole scope and easily capable of taking the weight, but still limited in terms of precision (apparently can even be retro-fitted for motor drive). The tripod is steel and no better than you'd expect for a low-end scope, and I do find it wobbly. The objective is, of course, achromat not apo but I've been pleasantly surprised by the sharpness right across the field and the colour aberration hasn't been too bad (I have read that you can get some variation in these Bressers, so perhaps I got a "good" one) - however, I was only able to come to this conclusion once I'd given up on the dire Kellner eyepieces it came with and bought a couple of half decent ones. As you're already started, I assume this won't be an issue for you.
The main limitation for me is the aperture. How dark are your skies? Mine aren't great, so an 80mm might have been a better start for me. Would it be worth the extra expense and weight?

 

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'Toy' needs to be put in perspective, Galileo would have bitten the arm off a cardinal to own one of those. But the light grasp from a small refractor is going to be limited and I'm not sure about the mounts. Would a table-top dob be more practical and effective?

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