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Buying my first telescope and feeling overwhelmed!


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I'm the type of person who scours the internet, reads as many reviews etc whenever I'm buying something. And that's what I've been doing. But I feel extremely overwhelmed and can't seem to decide on what to buy. So, first of all, I'd be interested in seeing (and photographing!) the moon, sun and planets. So, what scope should I buy? I got my Canon EOS 750D which I plan on using. I live in Finland, so ordering from the US would be a pain (due to tax and shipping costs).

Photography is not a must, but I would very much try my hand at it. I'm willing to compromise, though, so feel free to suggest things. My budget is about $600 or 500€. Although I would prefer a cheaper once since I'm a beginner. Also, I'm able to drive away from light pollution, so that's not a problem either. There is a ton of light pollution around where I live, though I get an amazingly good view from the moon and sun.

Anyways, I've been looking at these:

- Bresser Messier AR-102/1000 HEXAFOC EXOS-1/EQ4

- Sky-Watcher Starquest-130P

- Sky-Watcher Skymax-102

- Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ MD

The only thing I worry about the Bresser is the weight. It's pretty hefty. A lighter one would suit me a lot better, but heavier one is not out of the question. I'm not opposed to buying two. I mean, a cheaper easier one now so I can get the hang of it, and then more expensive one later.

If you have any other suggestions, please do let me know!

Cheers!

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If you definitely want moon and planet observing and the odd photo, out of the ones you've suggested I'd go with the skywatcher Skymax 102, the maksutov scopes are best designed for lunar and planetary, with a dslr being able to be connected onto the back to take images or best using a planetary camera for imaging as it takes many 100s 1000s of frames to stack. The dslr will be brilliant for the moon. You'll have to have a sturdy tripod for it the star adventurer one is very good and what I use with my Skymax 127 az gti and evostar 72ed. 

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First off, I love Finland...visited there many years ago and it's beautiful.

Now then, you're going to get a lot of different opinions on what to do, what not to do, what to get and what not to get.  It's all so very confusing, and as a newcomer to this hobby myself I will offer you some beginner advice.

1) The majority of people will tell you that it's not the telescope but the mount which will be your most important purchase.  Here is the thing with that - I'm not saying they are wrong but if ALL you are interested in is sun, moon and planets then you don't need a go-to mount.  You just have to know visually what to look for in the sky for planetary purposes and what time they rise and set.  The moon and sun are obviously easy to find.  A simple ALT-AZ mount should work for you.  If you want to go deeper into the hobby for stars, galaxies, etc then a go-to mount would be a wise purchase.

2) Get a good tripod.  The ones that come with these bundles are usually junk but the Skymax-102 I *think* comes with an AZ-GTi mount and decent tripod so I'd recommend that one.  If you do get that mount be aware you have to power it so there's more money to be spent on either batteries or a portable power source which adds to the budget (welcome to Astronomy!).

3) Get a solar filter to look at the sun, do NOT look at it directly with the scope.  That's another expense (welcome to Astronomy!).

4) You're now going to want to consider eyepieces which adds to the budget (welcome to Astronomy!).  The scope bundles you purchase also usually come with some basic eyepieces which aren't the greatest but they are usable of course.  I believe the Skywatcher 102 is a 1300mm scope, so a 10mm eyepiece would give you 130x magnification and a 25x eyepiece will give you 52x mag.  That's quite powerful so consider getting a lower powered eyepiece for decent wide-field viewing.  My scope isn't as big so I'll leave it to more experienced people here to answer how to achieve that.

5) It's assumed you have a laptop or desktop to take care of processing the image using software, yes?  Most people like to "stack" images and process them to give a better overall quality to them.  It's very rare to achieve one-shot images that are great, especially for planets.  Moon and sun you can do though in easy one-snaps.

6) You'll want a neutral density moon filter to decrease the brightness when observing.  Looking at the moon won't damage anything on your scope or eyesight, but the glare is very noticeable especially with full moons and it can get quite annoying. That's another expense (welcome to Astronomy!).


As much as you think I've said here, I've probably simplified it but believe me when I say, the overwhelming feeling comes and goes in waves...I often go through this too.  Being confused and feeling uncertain doesn't stop as soon as you order a telescope.  But I will say always come back here for more help, the people here are top-notch and there are no dumb questions.  I promise you'll feel comfortable here.

Edited by Maideneer
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Don't get a Celestron "AstroMaster" kit; nothing within that series.  I have an "AstroMaster" kit, and I'm fully aware of the others within that series, intimately.  The focussers of the refractors are nightmares.  The "AstroMaster" 114mm is a "Bird Jones", and to be avoided based upon that fact alone.  This is a far better choice over the "AstroMaster" 130mm f/5 Newtonian...

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/skywatcher-explorer-130p.html

The "Explorer" 130P Newtonian is fully collimatable, and with a centre-spotted parabolic primary-mirror.  It's still a mystery as to whether the mirror of the  "AstroMaster" 130mm is parabolic or not.  Celestron has stated in the past(2011) that it's spherical...

https://www.celestron.com/blogs/knowledgebase/does-my-astromaster-130-have-a-spherical-or-parabolic-mirror-what-is-the-difference

Also, the primary-mirror of the "AstroMaster" 130mm is not centre-spotted as it arrives.  A centre-spot is a great help when collimating a Newtonian.

The "StarQuest" 130P comes with a plastic, non-collimatable primary-mirror cell, yet, curiously, the mirror is centre-spotted...

Sky-Watcher-StarQuest-130P-Newtonian-cca

The mount is of a new design, promising perhaps, refreshing to see nonetheless.  A video-review of the kit...

With either the "StarQuest" or the "Explorer" mount, you'll want the legs of their tripods at their shortest, fully retracted, whilst observing or imaging, and to minimise the ill effects of the shakes.

Edited by Alan64
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On 23/06/2021 at 19:46, taivaankappale said:

I'm the type of person who scours the internet, reads as many reviews etc whenever I'm buying something. And that's what I've been doing. But I feel extremely overwhelmed and can't seem to decide on what to buy. So, first of all, I'd be interested in seeing (and photographing!) the moon, sun and planets. So, what scope should I buy? I got my Canon EOS 750D which I plan on using. I live in Finland, so ordering from the US would be a pain (due to tax and shipping costs).

Photography is not a must, but I would very much try my hand at it. I'm willing to compromise, though, so feel free to suggest things. My budget is about $600 or 500€. Although I would prefer a cheaper once since I'm a beginner. Also, I'm able to drive away from light pollution, so that's not a problem either. There is a ton of light pollution around where I live, though I get an amazingly good view from the moon and sun.

I'm not surprised you are overwhelmed, there is such a huge range of telescope types , brands, sizes and mounts to choose between that it is easy to be swamped with information. You are unlikely to find a unanimous opinion on here either, but at least we can offer some practical experience.

OK, so you want a reasonably portable kit, are mostly interested in bright , easily found targets and want something you can park a DSLR on to try some photos. Out of your suggestions, I have (very recently) bought the shorter 'S' , 600mm version of the Bresser refractor, and have had a slightly larger 127 skymax for a while. Apart from that, I inherited a Celestron astromaster 114 EQ bird jones refractor , which I would never recommend anyone buy, horrid wobbly mount, poor spherical mirror, fuzzy image. Alan64 is right about that 'scope.

The Bresser 102 S is quite heavy ,  mine is (at the moment) on an AZ5 alt az mount, which copes with it easily,  the longer, heavier 102 / 1000 you are thinking about will need a similarly serious heavy (and expensive) mount and tripod to keep it steady and move it smoothly. Mine came with a really flimsy diagonal, and I felt I needed to replace it and the finder shoe and finder immediately. The shoe is a Bresser/Explore Scientific one which is not compatible with the more common Skywatcher finder base , so that was an extra cost. The supplied finder looks good in the adverts, but is wobbly, imprecise, and hard to use.

On the other hand, the Bresser focuser is pretty good, the screw in connection for a T mount makes a nice solid connection to a DSLR, the scope comes with a solar filter and the included plossl is decent quality.  I bought my 102 as a quick set up, grab & go instrument , for brief cloud gaps and daytime solar observing, which it is fine for, but I don't think it will be ideal for you. Chromatic aberration is really obvious to me when using it to look at the Moon or Jupiter, but there would probably be less C.A. in the longer 102/1000.

My suggestion would be to go for the skymax : the short tube of the maksutov makes it a compact package, therefore lighter and much easier to mount properly. The smaller aperture (taking the mak's central obstruction into account) is not hugely important if you are interested in bright targets. My mak is the 'scope I take out when the Moon is up, or Mars/Jupiter/Saturn are in the sky to see. The skywatcher diagonal is not wonderful (but slightly better than the one supplied with the Bresser ), and if the 102 comes with a red dot finder (as my 127 did) that is fine if you are simply lining the 'scope up with easily visible bright targets. The supplied 25mm eyepiece is OK, the 10mm you will want to replace.

Which brings me to accessories. Plan to spend some money on them, because while the telescope manufacturers sell  you what looks like a complete package , they skimp on the quality of the accessories, so you will very soon want to buy at least one better eyepiece, some solar filter film, a T or T2 mount for your camera, maybe a better diagonal, and a different kind of finder ... I'd suggest wait and see what works for you : I don't need a moon filter when using my 127 mak or 102 refractor , but I can't look at the Moon in my 150  reflector without one. I'm happy with using £20 plossl eyepieces in my 80mm refractor, but not in the other 'scopes.

I'm not really in a position to give you advice on mounts, because you hope to take photos, which really needs an EQ mount , but I'm only interested in visual use , so use alt az mounts.  If you were happy to start out only using your 'scope visually, I'd say buy a skymax 102 on a porta mount which would be a small, neat, high magnification, portable set up.

Heather

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If you want to view or image the planets, you should consider buying a telescope with a large aperture, e.g.  8 inch. With a 500 Euro budget that means a Dobsonian mounted newtonian, which will not be well suited for imaging.  If you opt for a smaller aperture of 4 or 5 inches, perhaps with a better mount, the views of the planets will be under-whelming.

A motor-driven equatorial mount would be sufficient for planetary imaging.  But if budget is not an obstacle, I'd recommend a Celestron CPC800 as being easy to use and a fine instrument for planetary viewing and imaging, on a rock-steady fork mount.

If you are interested in the Moon and planets, you do not need to worry about light pollution. The Moon and brighter planets are just about visible in daylight via a telescope, and you can't get more light polluted than that...

For planetary imaging you should use a camera that takes high-speed video e.g. ZWO's ASI 120MC or ASI224MC, rather than a Canon EOS.

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There is one absolute guarantee and that is that you won’t stay interested in just the planets and the moon for long, if you get the bug, you’ll want to go deeper very quickly so realize that from the beginning and plan for it in advance. I’m no Astro photographer but I believe these are well thought of as a good all rounder and as a good beginner AP setup. A bit more than what you wanted to spend but it might save you money in the long term 

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/skywatcher-explorer-130p-ds-eq3-pro-goto.html

 

 

Edited by Jiggy 67
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Posted (edited)

+1 for the Skymax 102, it's the one I've been pondering getting myself recently (I own an 8SE but it's quite a chore to lug about and setup, I always envied how easy the small Maks are to handle and carry).  If you add a 45 degree erecting correcting prism diagonal it should also make a very nice daytime spotting scope for observing ships, wildlife, etc.  The views through a 102 will be small but sharp, teasing out planetary and lunar detail takes effort no matter what size telescope you use (there's always more detail than you can see!), problem with larger telescopes is the views tend to get a bit fuzzy and dim as the magnification is increased, with a small telescope this generally isn't a problem as they simply don't allow that amount of magnification.

As a starter scope I'd say the 102 is probably going to be the most dynamic and useful, easy to handle and might just get the most use even if you bought a larger telescope later.

Edited by jonathan
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Posted (edited)

A small mak is excellent for lunar / planetary viewing. I use one as my grab’n’go portable setup. For it’s size and weight a great scope. Of course going bigger will show more detail but there is room for a small portable scope in most observers scope collections. Even if you do get a bigger scope later on the small mak will still be useful.. 

I prefer the Bresser MC100 mak but looks like being unavailable untill next year. 🙀 The Skymax 102 is available with a mount now and the OTA on it’s own should be avvailable shortly. 

8D688AE3-AC54-460C-9D66-AC5565F71F85.jpeg

Edited by johninderby
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Posted (edited)

Welcome!

+1 for a Mak on an AZ GTi Mount.   

I have the 127 which is a bit bigger than the 102 you're looking at but still very portable, so the 102 will be a breeze in this department.  Additionally I can attest to the fact that they are very robust and really don't require regular adjustment, collimation etc. 

The moon will be an Apollo-lander window experience and you'll easily resolve Saturn's rings + a couple of moons, cloud bands, moons transits and possibly the Great Red Spot on Jupiter (its a bit dim at the moment. On the sun you will see sunspots and faculae  and a hint of granularity. 

 Also, the Skymax 102  will give nice views of thousands of double stars, star clusters, and the brighter nebulae and galaxies (start with finding M31, M81 & M82) if you want to look outside the solar system . (Portability makes a huge difference on fainter objects as you can easily ship out to somewhere really dark & set up in minutes). 

 Should all keep you busy for a while :)   Have fun & clear skies! 

Edited by SuburbanMak
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Lots of recommendations for the skymax 102 ... i can only go along with those ( i actually own a celestron 102 Maksutov , and i love it ) . In the end you will buy what you feel is right for you , despite all the useful advice you receive on here. The trouble will come when you decide to get your second scope ... as you realise that one scope is seldom enough :) 

 

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Posted (edited)

Another +1 for the Skymax 102. The first scope I ever purchased, and I love it. Sadly I have not been able to use it for some years due to being in storage in another country, but I honestly really miss it and have at several points considered buying another! 

I didn't own the AZ-GTi at the time but I own one now and it's a fantastic little mount for visual use, and would pair really well with the skymax.

Regarding the astrophotography part - the skymax has a slow focal ratio and thus is less well suited to AP, but it is possible to get good images even as a novice. Many years ago I used lucky imaging to get a half decent image of Jupiter through the same scope (see below - not an incredible picture but that was my lack of skill, not the scope!) 

Two other things to consider:

That scope only has a relatively small field of view due to the focal length, but because it has a slow f-ratio it will not be as picky on wider angle eyepieces so you should be able to get one that doesn't break the bank. Just be aware that the interior baffle (part of the scope design of Maks) limits how wide you can go - off the top of my head it's maybe 26mm / 70° or thereabouts.

Lastly, if you wanted to later do astrophotography, you could get a couple of bits for not too many euros (maybe 50-100ish) to very easily put the mount into EQ mode. 

Looking forward to seeing what you decide on and a first light report! 

Thanks 

Joe

post-8274-0-67990200-1395319588_thumb.jpg

Edited by badhex
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I've used a Skymax 102 and AZ-GTi to observe and image planets. It is a very satisfying combination.

22_50_47_g5_ap20_conv_gimped.png.f514f3c47176fb378e28f523c74655c0.png

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25 minutes ago, Ags said:

I've used a Skymax 102 and AZ-GTi to observe and image planets. It is a very satisfying combination.

22_50_47_g5_ap20_conv_gimped.png.f514f3c47176fb378e28f523c74655c0.png

When I said I'd considered buying one again at several points, the most recent of those was nearly pushing the button when you recently had yours up for sale @Ags

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It was a nice scope but I found a local buyer within hours of posting it on te-les-koop.nl. It's been surplus to requirements since I got a C6.

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Posted (edited)

If your budget affords it, I would suggest going one step up to the Skymax 127. At 1500mm focal distance, you will be filling your frame with the Moon/Sun on an APS-C camera.

I was so happy with my Skymax 127, I went ahead recently for the "big Mac" Skymax 180 - tell me about overdoing it 🙂

The mount/tripod will be your limit to enjoyment. I bought a used HEQ5 Pro, because I like astrophotography, not only visual. But the Skymax 127 is perfectly usable with a smaller/lighter mount. Even a good camera tripod could be used in a pinch.

N.F.

PS. This video should be a useful comparison between the 102 and the 127 Maksutovs:

 

Edited by nfotis
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