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I recently bought an Askar FRA400 f/5.6 Quintuplet APO Astrograph. I couldn’t find much info about it in advance – the best was a thread on Cloudy Nights – so thought it might be useful to other folks to jot down some of my feedback. I’m happy to answer any specific questions or clarify any points written in this review.
This is a great telescope that’s fun and easy to use, but with a few issues potential buyers should be aware of.
I got into astroimaging a few years ago, using a Sky-Watcher Evostar 80ED DS-Pro and ASI1600 mono camera plus filters. I enjoyed it, but the arrival of a new baby took a lot of my time (and energy!) so I sold everything with the intention of coming back to the hobby a little later. Barely a year on and I was missing astroimaging a lot, so decided to get back into it, but this time trying to create a simpler set up that would get me imaging on a clear night with the minimum of hassle.
I bought a William Optics Zenithstar 73 II APO 2019 with reducer / flattener, but had terrible issues with streaky corner stars due to backfocus problems. I tried a few things with the help of FLO (great customer support, of course) but in the end returned the telescope as it looked like I’d gotten a duff one. Luckily, at this time FLO started stocking Askar FRA400 f/5.6 Quintuplet APO Astrographs. Its Petzval design promised to be free of backfocus issues (assuming no reducer), which given recent experiences was music to my ears. I decided to go for it, and pushed the button.
I’d be coupling it with a ZWO ASI 2600MC-PRO USB 3.0 Cooled Colour Camera. I went OSC to keep things simple. However, I live in Bristol city centre – Bortle 8 light pollution – so added an Optolong L-eXtreme to my basket so I could still do narrowband imaging.
I decided to forego the optional Askar f/3.9 Full Frame Reducer for FRA400/5.6. This was for four reasons. 1) The L-eXtreme isn’t as effective with very fast systems; 2) 400mm is good to frame the targets I’m most interested in; 3); with the reducer I’d need to get the backfocus spot-on, and I’d had enough of that with the WO ZS73; 4) I’d save £269!
Askar FRA400 f/5.6 Quintuplet APO Astrograph
ZWO ASI 2600MC-PRO USB 3.0 Cooled Colour Camera
William Optics 32mm Slide-base Uniguide Scope
ZWO ASI 120MM Mini USB 2.0 Mono Camera
ZWO EAF - Electronic Automatic Focusmotor
ZWO ASiair Pro Wireless Astrophotography Controller
Optolong Dual-Band L-eXtreme Filter (2”)
ZWO 2″ Filter Drawer with M48 / M42 Connections
Primaluce Lab 30mm PLUS Spacers
William Optics DSD 245 Plate
Dew heater straps
Orion Sirius EQ-G mount
Not being a pixel peeper, I’m not qualified to write a detailed analysis of image quality here, but I will post a single sub so people can make up their own minds. I can say though that I’m very happy with the views – both through the eyepiece and via the camera. There are some aberrations (fringing maybe?) around stars at the edges of the frame -- zoomed examples included below.
Issues and solutions
Build quality on the whole is good, a different league to the 80ED, but not quite up there with the WO ZS73. The dew shield is a little loose, and on the cusp of sliding down under its own weight when the telescope is pointing straight up. I solved this by putting a white elastic band on the main tube, just behind the dew shield – a DIY fix but works just fine. The lens cap also feels a bit loose, but hasn’t fallen off. The default focusser is ok, but doesn’t quite have the premium feel of the WO ZS73. I upgraded with a ZWO EAF, which was very easy to install, and works perfectly. I'd consider this a must if you're astroimaging.
The supplied dovetail is quite short, and makes it difficult to achieve balance if using a heavy camera. I solved this with Primaluce Lab 30mm PLUS Spacers and a William Optics DSD 245 Plate. This allows for good balance, plus there’s room for an ASIAIR PRO to be attached at the back.
All my accessories are attached to the left-side of the telescope, making it slightly off-balance. However, there are enough holes in the spacers and tube rings to allow for the dovetail to actually be attached slightly off-centre to the telescope, allowing for it to all be well balanced. You can buy a Finder Plate to open up more options.
The telescope comes with a conical M68 to M48 adapter. Askar say this is threaded for 48mm filters – ideal for my L-eXtreme, or so I thought. I couldn’t really see where there was a thread in the adapter. I e-mailed Askar customer support, and got a reply two days later saying that the thread is inside the adapter. Fair enough, there is a thread in there, but no way of actually getting a filter inside and screwing it tight. It’s really odd. I e-mailed Askar again to ask for clarification, but this time didn’t get a reply. So, I don’t rate their customer service. From more research online, it looks as if some of the adapters come in two parts that screw together, presumably to give access to the thread. In the end I bought a ZWO 2″ Filter Drawer with M48 / M42 Connections. This fixed the issue, and is very convenient, but is an extra cost that should be considered.
The ASKAR FRA400 doesn’t come with a carry case, which is a bit of a shame.
I’m really happy with my ASKAR FRA400, and think it’ll serve me well for years to come. Once the initial issues were overcome, I’ve been finding it a lot of fun. It’s compact and light -- I can carry the OTA with all attached accessories in one hand. It pairs well with the ASI2600 and L-eXtreme. The ASIAIR PRO controls everything very neatly as well. If I see a gap in the clouds, I can set everything up (tripod and mount in the garden, attach telescope, polar align, autofocus, start imaging) in 20 – 25 minutes. I’m looking into a DIY pier in the garden, which should reduce this to 5 – 10 minutes.
Single FITS sub, straight from the camera (with L-eXtreme):
Single 300s sub with L-eXtreme, debayered, stretched, and resized to 50%:
Random star from the centre of the frame:
And the edge of the frame:
8.5 hours of integration time. One of my very first attempts at processing with PixInsight, so definitely not the limit of what the telescope can do, but more an indication of what a beginner can achieve in Bortle 8 skies:
Views of the Askar FRA400 in my garden:
After much research, primarily on this site and The Binocular Sky, I got hold of the above binoculars. I spent ages writing a review specifically for this site of what I found, as a thanks for all the advice I had received. By the power of idiocy I then managed to post it on Cloudy Nights instead (I had both open in my browser). Too much Christmas port I guess
Anyway, too late to take it down as some have already replied and I guess I shouldn't post the same thing on two sites so here is a link to my review on completely the wrong site No offence at all to Cloudy Nights but I wrote it with the Stargazers Lounge audience in mind and it may make less sense on a US site.
Comparison of Pentax SP 50 WP 10x50 and Nikon Action EX 10x50 CF
By Ade Turner
I’ve just bought a Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro. I’m trying to drive it from Stellarium using EQMOD but I’m running into a problem I haven’t the experience to solve.
This is my set up:
Windows 7 Laptop > 10m active USB 3.0 cable > 4 port powered Atolla USB 3.0 hub > Lynx Astro EQMOD cable > Mount (plugged directly into hand control socket)
When I first connected the mount to the laptop (a 2015 Dell Inspiron) Windows 7 searched for a serial/USB driver and installed it on COM 8 (according to Device Manager).
In Stellarium I created a profile for the mount but it wouldn’t autodetect the COM port. So I manually set it to 8.
When I try to connect to the mount it sits for a while and then tells me the connection has timed out.
Anyone have any suggestions as to where I should start to try and get the connection sorted please? Thanks.
I have just discovered the benefit of turning off the auxiliary encoders on my AZ-EQ5GT. Goto after a PA puts the target in the fov first time with no star align or platesolving. My question is does the mount also have primary or main encoders? or does it rely on accurate home positioning and accurate stepper motors for goto?
as a follow up of the discussion on 12mm planetary eyepieces: [settled] 12 mm planetary eyepiece ortho or zoom I though I share with you my experience with my newly acquired EPs which arrived last Monday from Aunty FLO 😉. Just before placing an order, I had a change of mind and went for the 10 mm BCO instead the Q-turret barlow. So here is the list of EPs in this comparison:
Hyperflex 7E1 Zoom: 7.2 - 21.5 mm (which has already a very good reputation as we all know) Baader Classic Ortho 18 mm Baader Classic Ortho 10 mm Seben Super Plössl Zoom: 8 - 24 mm (same as Skywatcher, Starguider, Zhumell, Agena, ....)
So here are the contenders. I am well aware that all those have been reviewed and compared, but I though I share my experience with them in the hope that somebody finds it useful.
The comparison was done with my 180 SkyMax Mak-Cass, set up with the original VB, an Omegon ADC, a TS-1.25" star diagonal and then the EPs. In this configuration, which works really well to correct for atmospheric dispersion, my scope has an effective focal length of 2940 mm. I had the chance to use the EPs two nights in a row, one with ok seeing and yesterday with good seeing conditions. After cooling the scope for about an hour (where I try to place the scope outside for cooling when the outside air temperature is the same as the storing temperature of the Mak, about 24 deg C) I went to work comparing the EPs. Each comparison was done for about an hour, where I switched EPs back an forth, using the orthos as baseline for quality.
Comparison on Saturn at 10mm, so the BCO 10, the Hyperflex at 10 and the Seben at 10 were compared. That's at 294x magnification:
The BCO 10 is really sharp (as expected) and to me surprisingly comfortable to use. I was initially sceptical about the 8 mm eye relief, however for me it works and thus gives superb views. 52 deg FOV is also very comfortable. The Cassini Division was clear and easily discernible. The Hyperflex, even though with a smaller FOV, was very close to the performance of the BCO 10. Also expected, I read a lot of good reviews on the Hyperflex. Again Cassini Division nice and clear. The Seben zoom also performed, however noticeably less good than the Hyperflex or even the BCO 10. Basically I missed some sharpness, obviously in comparison with the BCO, but also with the Hyperflex. For my eye it was harder to make out the Cassini Division through the Seben. Comparison on Jupiter at 18 mm: BCO 18, Hyperflex and Seben at 18. That's at 163x magnification. Here a picture of how Jupiter should have looked like to describe what I managed to see:
Again the BCO 18 gave superb views, sharp with lot's of contrast (as expected for an ortho). Quite some structure visible in the cloud bands.The two main bands where easy to see, no problem there. I was able to see the short dark band below the lower main band, as well as the eddy structure to the right of it (referring to the picture above). I have to say I was impressed. The Hyperflex zoom was quite up there with the BCO, maybe a bit less contrast, but I still could make out the short dark band. With the Seben zoom I had a hard time discerning the short dark band as well as the eddy structure to the side of it. Would I not have known where to look, I would have missed that. So noticeably less contrast in the Seben. Summary comments:
Using the BCOs as baseline, they both produce very sharp and contrast rich views. The 52 deg FOV is very comfortable to view planets. As said I was surprised how comfortable the BCO 10 is to use even though with its short eye relief (8 mm). Obviously not useful to people who have to wear glasses. The Hyperflex zoom is quite close to the BCOs, even though with a narrower FOV. Sharpness and contrast are comparable. Probably one would not switch too often to the BCOs and happily observe with the Hyperflex. The Seben zoom is a good EP, but not there with the Hyperflex or the BCOs. To my eyes its a workable zoom, but you miss out on details of the planets with respect to sharpness and contrast. I can recommend going for a Hyperflex (as so many have said before) if your are looking for a zoom EP. These three EPs, BCO 10, 18 and the Hyerflex are a very functional base set for a 180 Skymax. BCO 10 very sharp on Saturn (looking forward to see Mars with that). BCO 18 produces contrast rich views of Jupiter. And the Hyperflex for everything between 136x - 408x 😉. Maybe another fixed focal length EP in the 14-15 mm range, just to bridge the gap between the BCO 10 and 18. However the Hyperflex does a great job at that already. A yes, and I really can only recommend an ADC. Without it the cloud band details on Jupiter disappeared even in the BCO 18 and the typical blue/red colour seams were clearly visible. Clear skies,