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Recommendations for telescopes in the £400-600 budget


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So I have been using a celestron 70mm travel scope for a little while now, and I think its time for a nice upgrade. Looking at a £400-600 budget, portable, able to see the planets and the smudges of deep space, and generally spend the most time just enjoying the night sky. Being able to image might be a thing I want to do further down the line. I live in a flat, so space is minimal and I will have to travel to get to less light polluted areas. Would love one of the 200 dobsonians but think one may have to wait till I get more space and less travelling.

Wondering If saving for a Schmidt-Cassegrain would be a better idea for me at the moment, since they seem smaller with the great quality still? Also heard that a Heritage 150p could be quite a good idea too. What do people think? 

 

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A 127mm Mak or Heritage 130p/150p would probably tick most of your requirements boxes.  The Mak would excel at higher powers after a 30 minute cool down.  The Heritages would excel at lower power views while still being quite capable of higher powers.  Don't forget to figure in the cost of a mount for the Mak.  The Heritages will need something to set them on.  5" SCTs don't typically provide as good of views of planets as Maks of a similar size.

I don't know if your budget would stretch to a 6" SCT or 150 Mak.  You might also look into finding a used 8" SCT.  Older ones are cheap as chips in some cases because so many have been sold over the past 50 years.  A well collimated and well cared for 8" SCT will run rings around most 5" or 6" CATs and reflectors.

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Good advice already given.  You’ve mentioned “portable” that does mean different things according to how fit you are.

As you’ve been using a 70mm Celestron travelscope are you still ok with a low tech scope for your upgrade?  If you are then the Heritage 130 or 150 would be great for visual but not imaging.  A friend of mine has a Meade 8” SCT, but as you’re in a flat not what I’d think of as “portable” with stairs or lifts to contend with.

Good luck with your choices, Ed.

 

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Some good advice already given - but I'll add my own thoughts.

In terms of portability, any newtonian design is always going to be relatively large an tricky to move about. An SCT would be more manageable but would need a good mount due to the long FL. Another option might be a larger refractor? You could get something within your budget with ED glass second hand such as a 100mm SW Evostar DS pro. Although not quite the same aperture it will be more forgiving on the mount and could be use for AP in the future.

I think you need to decide on your longer term priority (visual or AP) as the requirements are very different. For 'general purpose' DS, planetary, lunar and possibly future AP a Mak would probably be my choice as a relatively portable all-rounder. A bit like the SCT's, there are quite a few second hand.

 

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16 hours ago, Mentos said:

So I have been using a celestron 70mm travel scope for a little while now, and I think its time for a nice upgrade. Looking at a £400-600 budget, portable, able to see the planets and the smudges of deep space, and generally spend the most time just enjoying the night sky. Being able to image might be a thing I want to do further down the line. I live in a flat, so space is minimal and I will have to travel to get to less light polluted areas. Would love one of the 200 dobsonians but think one may have to wait till I get more space and less travelling.

Wondering If saving for a Schmidt-Cassegrain would be a better idea for me at the moment, since they seem smaller with the great quality still? Also heard that a Heritage 150p could be quite a good idea too. What do people think? 

 

Heritage 150 'quite' a good idea ? :evil4:I'm rising to that bait ! 🙂

It's not what you'd choose for  imaging, but for the price I certainly couldn't find anything compact and portable that came close .

I've also  got a 127 mak on an az5 and hefty photo tripod, and a couple of (cheap) refractors. They are all set up on their tripods (because I'm lazy) , and  the little heritage is easier to carry outside than any of them , I pick it up along with the low triangular table I made for it , and carry it into the garden easily (despite being a weedy girlie)  . The little dob doesn't have the chromatic aberration of a cheap  refractor, or the cool down time and dew magnet  properties of a mak , but on the other hand the simple tabletop dob base doesn't have the smooth slow motion controls of the az5, but it is sturdy, and is not  prone to annoying vibrations as cheap tripods and mounts are.

I don't know what tripod/mount your existing 'scope is on, but I doubt it would be adequate to take a bigger refractor, so you'd need to think about a mount/tripod too. Big 'scopes need better supporting systems, which are inevitably heavier and more expensive. A 102 mak is a small,  lightweight , easily portable option you might want to consider , the long focal length makes them particularly useful for the Moon and Planets.

The only thing I find annoying about the Heritage is the focuser, which is more like a plumbing fixture than a precision instrument component, but for the price, compactness, portability and aperture the dob offers, I can live with that.

Heather

 

 

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Thank you very much for your advice! Theres definitely quite a lot of choice, and searching for the best price. Doesn't seem easy to get telescopes at the moment. Can't seem to find many secondhand SCTs, I did find this SCT: https://www.harrisontelescopes.co.uk/acatalog/celestron-starsense-6sct.html. but there doesn't seem to be much info about the mount. Might be able to stretch the budget a bit. I think visual and portability is the most important at the moment, and just wondering if its worth the extra stretch. Definitely looking at the heritage 150, didn't mean to bait!

Would there be any suggestions on a 6" SCT or a 150 Mak? Apologies, for these questions I'm still quite new and feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the information out there. It was much easier with the cheaper scopes (although that choice could have been better in hindsight!)

 

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Or a 6” Classical Cassegrain. Well priced and as there is no corrector plate cools down very quickly and no dewing problems plus a proper crayford focuser.  I’ve owned a similar sized mak and SCT. The CC6  makes a great grab’n’go setup. I’m liking it better than the mak or SCT due to the quick cooldown and no dewing and focuser. Just another scope to consider. 🤔

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/telescopes-in-stock/stellalyra-6-f12-m-crf-classical-cassegrain-telescope-ota.html

BTW the pic on FLOs website of the front of the scope is the wrong one. They’ve actually used a pic of the RC version which has a much bigger secondary obstruction.

D3F6E09C-E59D-4E6B-94F3-6B8CDA45A5B3.jpeg

445BA684-6076-422A-B5D6-E8F9580CFE82.jpeg

Edited by johninderby
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I have the 127mm Mak., and a Heritage 130P. Both are excellent. My 127 came as part of a Skymax setup, with a Synscan GoTo mount and handset. This is my Skymax setup, in a format similar to that of the Travelscope 70. Total weight about 11kg, with a few eyepieces and a couple of sets of batteries.

654267371_SkymaxBackpack-Annotated(R).jpg.9468ac01c9ae9503ab998575eabea13e.jpg

I liked it so much, that I bought a second one for my holiday home (house sold just before COVID hit) in France. This is the setup with a modified webcam in place of the eyepiece - fine for Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon. The Mak. with its longer focal length, really benefits from a tracking mount, and preferrably, full GoTo.

1437431708_Skymax127MCTinFrance(R).jpg.753fbd7059849db05a2438d4d234b950.jpg

This is my preferred portable battery supply; the packs were "borrowed" from my radio-controlled model sailing yachts. The contact resistance is much lower than individual cells in spring-loaded plastic holders.

1369594247_12BatteryPack.jpg.e59bb715213856c2e8f65c0149744eaf.jpg

This is my Heritage 130P, and Virtuoso 90mm Mak. The tracking on the Virtuoso mount is good for longer, high magnification, views without having to touch the mount, and for daytime solar viewing with a solar-film filter over the front.

2084763733_130pVirtuoso90.thumb.jpg.7d676c02c55f296f6e0d503ba7c2b2b4.jpg

The Virtuoso mount will, with care, just about handle the 130P and 127 Mak OTAs; as long as I limit the maximum slewing rate; and, as a bonus, I can plug-in my Synscan handset, for full GoTo.

Geoff

 

Edited by Geoff Lister
add info on Virtuoso mount & typo
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10 hours ago, Mentos said:

I did find this SCT: https://www.harrisontelescopes.co.uk/acatalog/celestron-starsense-6sct.html. but there doesn't seem to be much info about the mount.

There is not much they could say about the mount, which appears to be a basic manual alt-azimuth mount. This package features the innovative Starsense phone app package, which I have read about but not seen in action.  The same telescope tube is avaliable with several other mounts including the AVX (q.v) and the Evolution (q.v) both much more expensive but enabling you to get more performance out of the telescope. Also available with a SLT mount (wobbly). By 'available' I mean available after a possibly long wait...

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Of these two kits, which one might be better, and perhaps the ideal...

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/sky-watcher-skymax-127-virtuoso-gti.html

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

I have a 127mm Maksutov, albeit without a go-to mount, and the same as the Bresser...

Maksutov5c.jpg.adb48d73c62e03412a2153134e7de93d.jpg

A 127mm Maksutov is the "sweet spot" among the varying apertures of the design.  I chose that one over a Celestron C6, and for very good reasons.

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Apologies for the delay in replying. Going to have a look through these suggestions tonight. Thank you for showing your setups/pictures its really helpful to decide as well! 

I'll let you guys know what I pick, or If I have other questions. 

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After researching your suggestions, what would you guys pick out of these,? Portability, ease of use and one that will last me a while till I skill up with just observing are my key points.  Budget, i think I can stretch to the £700 but just wondering if its worth it.

Celestron Nexstar 6 SLT  Goto £629-£699 (Think my preference is with this one for the better scope, but worried about the mount) 

Sky-Watcher SkyMax-127 AZ GTi £559 (Seems an excellent mount but with less aperture but highly recommended scope)

 

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29 minutes ago, johninderby said:

The C6 OTA on the AZ-GTi mount is a popular option although the C6 OTA is expensive on it’s own.

Yes, the c6 unfortunately seems out of my price range (although can't even find any in stock to be honest!) 

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16 minutes ago, Mentos said:

After researching your suggestions, what would you guys pick out of these,? Portability, ease of use and one that will last me a while till I skill up with just observing are my key points.  Budget, i think I can stretch to the £700 but just wondering if its worth it.

Celestron Nexstar 6 SLT  Goto £629-£699 (Think my preference is with this one for the better scope, but worried about the mount) 

Sky-Watcher SkyMax-127 AZ GTi £559 (Seems an excellent mount but with less aperture but highly recommended scope)

 

If you really have your heart set on one of those, then undoubtedly the AZGTI. Very lightweight, portable, with practice accurate gotos and good tracking. I have owned an AZGTI nearly two years and have throughly enjoyed my time with it (after a few hiccups early on with a dodgy unit tbh). Although it's time is nearly up. I don't need three mounts...

The AZGTi is also very versatile with some extras bolted on and some research, and again, practice - a fun little equatorial astrophotography mount. It works quite well with the planetarium app Sky Safari Pro too.

The modular system is nice, you can use it without the extension tube, different tripods etc. I've even tried mine with 10x50 binoculars on a L-bracket...

If you just fancy a look at the moon or gas giants for instance, the mount is fast to set up. Unlock the clutches, point the scope at the moon, lock, choose Point and Track, pick lunar and you're away with no need to touch the button for half an hour or more and if you do slew around the surface tracking isn't lost - a nice relaxed observing experience.

 

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2 hours ago, Mentos said:

Yes, the c6 unfortunately seems out of my price range (although can't even find any in stock to be honest!) 

For the time being, during these difficult times, consider a 127mm Maksutov.  It's a solid design, tightly constructed, and compact; a bit of a grab-and-go in its own right. 

Then, when things settle down, in future, you can get a C6, or a larger C8 perhaps, with a larger mount to support it.

A C6 is lighter in weight, with a somewhat shorter focal-length, and with an extra inch of aperture.  But then, it has a larger secondary-obstruction, blocking a little more of the aperture, and not quite as sharp as a Maksutov.  It is more of an ergonomic telescope, for comfort, and that over optical-quality, I'm afraid.  I almost considered a C6 myself, but after careful and lengthy research, I chose a Maksutov instead.

A C6 is like a day at the county-fair, and fleeting.  A Maksutov, however, is like a home-baked supper, each and every day, throughout the year.

Edited by Alan64
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+1 for the 127. The AZ-GTI mount is an improved version of my Skymax mount - mine does not have the manual clutches.

The Synscan GoTo is very effective, but I found that I had to do a bit of homework on my bright stars to speed up alignment. Quite often, I would select the suggested second alignment star, only to find that it was behind a tree, roof, or fence. I spent a couple of hours with the excellent "Stellarium" program on my PC, and, by adjusting date and time, for dusk at the middle of each month of the year, I was able to produce a table of 14 bright stars, visible from my garden's patio, and select a few of these, with rough compass direction and altitude angle. I did the same for an hour before dawn, but that table is rarely used! By selecting a pair of alignment stars with about 90 degrees difference in alignment, the Synscan software does a good job of compensating for any errors in leveling the tripod.

Once the bug takes hold, it is possible to use different OTAs on each other's mounts, although there may be some limitations on maximum altitude angle. If I want a wider angle view, I can (carefully) remove the 127 Mak OTA and fit the Newtoian OTA from my Heritage 130P, or my Star Travel 120mm refractor, without having to repeat alignment.

Geoff

 

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6 hours ago, Alan64 said:

For the time being, during these difficult times, consider a 127mm Maksutov.  It's a solid design, tightly constructed, and compact; a bit of a grab-and-go in its own right. 

Then, when things settle down, in future, you can get a C6, or a larger C8 perhaps, with a larger mount to support it.

A C6 is lighter in weight, with a somewhat shorter focal-length, and with an extra inch of aperture.  But then, it has a larger secondary-obstruction, blocking a little more of the aperture, and not quite as sharp as a Maksutov.  It is more of an ergonomic telescope, for comfort, and that over optical-quality, I'm afraid.  I almost considered a C6 myself, but after careful and lengthy research, I chose a Maksutov instead.

A C6 is like a day at the county-fair, and fleeting.  A Maksutov, however, is like a home-baked supper, each and every day, throughout the year.

Ye its what I was thinking. I imagine and hope the prices will come down when supply is back to normal!  When I get more space, I'll be happier to get the bigger scopes too.

Was looking at the 150 mak, but out of my price range when considering a mount too.

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17 minutes ago, Geoff Lister said:

+1 for the 127. The AZ-GTI mount is an improved version of my Skymax mount - mine does not have the manual clutches.

The Synscan GoTo is very effective, but I found that I had to do a bit of homework on my bright stars to speed up alignment. Quite often, I would select the suggested second alignment star, only to find that it was behind a tree, roof, or fence. I spent a couple of hours with the excellent "Stellarium" program on my PC, and, by adjusting date and time, for dusk at the middle of each month of the year, I was able to produce a table of 14 bright stars, visible from my garden's patio, and select a few of these, with rough compass direction and altitude angle. I did the same for an hour before dawn, but that table is rarely used! By selecting a pair of alignment stars with about 90 degrees difference in alignment, the Synscan software does a good job of compensating for any errors in leveling the tripod.

Once the bug takes hold, it is possible to use different OTAs on each other's mounts, although there may be some limitations on maximum altitude angle. If I want a wider angle view, I can (carefully) remove the 127 Mak OTA and fit the Newtoian OTA from my Heritage 130P, or my Star Travel 120mm refractor, without having to repeat alignment.

Geoff

 

That's really good to know thank you, think I have decided on the 127 with the AZ-GTI. Now I'll just have to look at the accessories!

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On 23/08/2021 at 22:36, Mentos said:

So I have been using a celestron 70mm travel scope for a little while now, and I think its time for a nice upgrade. Looking at a £400-600 budget, portable, able to see the planets and the smudges of deep space, and generally spend the most time just enjoying the night sky. Being able to image might be a thing I want to do further down the line. I live in a flat, so space is minimal and I will have to travel to get to less light polluted areas. Would love one of the 200 dobsonians but think one may have to wait till I get more space and less travelling.

Wondering If saving for a Schmidt-Cassegrain would be a better idea for me at the moment, since they seem smaller with the great quality still? Also heard that a Heritage 150p could be quite a good idea too. What do people think? 

 

For the planets and deep space you need aperture, so ideally you are looking for at least a 150mm scope.

In my opinion, the largest scope you can get that is very portable, quick to setup and cool down is the Heritage 150P and well within your budget so you could afford a couple of good extra eyepieces too. I very much doubt the much more expensive 150mm SCT will show anything more at the eyepiece.

It’s also currently in stock at First Light Optics.

Edited by dweller25
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5 hours ago, Mentos said:

Ye its what I was thinking. I imagine and hope the prices will come down when supply is back to normal!  When I get more space, I'll be happier to get the bigger scopes too.

Was looking at the 150 mak, but out of my price range when considering a mount too.

A very good point was made earlier, in that you can mount a short, low-power, wide-field achromat, an ST102 or ST120 perhaps, on a AZ-GTi go-to mount as well. The combination of the Maksutov or a C6, and the short achromat, would cover the gamut of nightly observations, at quite low powers with the achromat, and at those quite high with the Maksutov or  C6; the two telescopes mounted one at a time, of course. 

In the end, whichever telescope you choose, even a "Heritage" 130P or 150P Newtonian-Dobson, will be worlds away from the 70mm f/6 "TravelScope" in performance. 

Incidentally, I have this 70mm f/4.3 achromat...

achromat4c.jpg.f3cd225db301e5031da929247e8d157a.jpg

It's even shorter than your own.  It was stopped down upon arrival, and to a 30mm f/10, but I've opened it back up to 70mm, and with its "rainbows".  Your 70mm may be stopped down as well, to 40mm or so, possibly; something you can investigate and putter round with in future.  I'll be using that 70mm as a finder for my Maksutov.

Then, don't necessarily discount the "Heritage" 130P or 150P, and for considerably less outlay.  One or the other may be just the thing to tide you over until what you're really after is readily available, price- and stock-wise.

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22 hours ago, Mentos said:

That's really good to know thank you, think I have decided on the 127 with the AZ-GTI. Now I'll just have to look at the accessories!

I think that's a good choice. I've got the AZ-GTi myself and it's easy and quick to set up and tracks well even at high magnifications.

Given that you mentioned travelling to find dark skies I think the ruggedness of a Mak is a definite asset and should avoid issues of having to re-collimate your scope if it's been bumped around during the journey.

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