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Yet another newbie ‘what scope’ question!


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Yet another ‘what should I get’ thread. Be assured I’ve done a lot of research and come to this hobby for the 3rd time in my life, previously I owned a Nexstar 5se which I stupidly sold 4 or 5 years ago after a very short time but I did always keep my Heritage 130p.

I have a budget of around £600, the scope must be a Goto. I have a lovely selection of eyepieces already, from a Celestron 7mm Xcel, Vixen VPL 15mm down to a Celestron 32mm plossl and some more in between. I’ve got many bases covered and probably too many in reality!

 

The 3 on the short list are :

SW Mak 127 GTi

Celestron Astro Fi 6

SW Star Discovery p150i

 

I’ve read enough to do know the strengths and weaknesses, although it’s always nice to hear more opinions. My goals are mostly visual, a little dabble with smartphone AP, and a slant towards clusters & deep sky over planets.

Some thoughts I’ve had, if I was to get the Astro Fi 6 or Mak with decent aperture but longer focal length could my 130p tube work on the same mount and provide me wider views and slightly better DSO viewing? Or would the p150i be a better allrounder than the other 2 and the 130p?

Just for complete clarity, definitely won’t be looking at the SW dobs without GoTo. Time is so limited in life that I want a viewing session to be more productive, at the expense of aperture AND learning the skies (although I have some basics in that area).

 

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Edited by Matt Ikaruga
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I think your idea of using the 130 on the mount supplied with one of the others makes sense to me. The Mak and SCT both have much longer FL's so are probably more suited to lunar or planetary. You heritage 130 will give you a wide field option for other DSO's. I think the difference between 130 and 150mm newts will be marginal.

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17 minutes ago, Clarkey said:

I think your idea of using the 130 on the mount supplied with one of the others makes sense to me. The Mak and SCT both have much longer FL's so are probably more suited to lunar or planetary. You heritage 130 will give you a wide field option for other DSO's. I think the difference between 130 and 150mm newts will be marginal.

Interesting comment on the 130 vs 150 Clarkey and was hoping I would hear that. Does give me some food for thought with the selection 👍🏼

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I bought a Star Discovery 150i and later got a Skymax 127 OTA, and use both on the Star Discovery mount (and like them equally). I can't comment on the Celestron. It's not so easy to mount a Heritage onto a different mount, See this thread.

There's not an obvious winner to me. The 150i is a better all-rounder, the Mak is weaker on fainter or larger DSOs and probably better on solar system and doubles, having twice the focal length. There ought to be a slight resolution advantage for the 150i - and be aware that the effective aperture of the Skymax is actually around 120mm due to internal baffling - but so far they have performed equally well for me (I've managed splits down to 1.2" on both).

But you say that your favoured targets are clusters and DSOs rather than planets, so perhaps that's support for the 150i. But then again, you already have the Heritage, so perhaps the Mak's different attributes would complement it better than another Newt would.

I've not used the AZ-GTi mount, but you will have seen that they have the same capacity and use effectively the same software. The GTi does have the option of installing a counterweight, and of operating in EQ mode (with a wedge). It's not really intended for imaging, though several owners have done it with some success. And anyway, you do say your focus will be more about visual.

Have you looked at the SW Vituosos? They're new, so not many opinions yet.

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Love the setup Philip!

Thanks for your response as well Zermelo. You’ve echoed what I had started thinking that the 150i may be the better all rounder for my purposes but having the heritage does slightly sway me towards one of the other 2. I believe it’ll fit on the Celestron but I’ll definitely check if I decide on that scope.

I have looked at the SW Vituosos but I do like the idea of a proper mount rather than a garden table. While it’ll be ultra convenient for setup and put away, and travelling just feeling like I’d end up wanting a mounted one as the heritage is always a bit too low or not stable enough or similar. I know there’s easy solutions to all this of course!

Thanks for all your responses so far. 

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Just wanted to say that whilst putting a Heritage 130p or 150p on an EQ mount would not be very convenient, it works fine on an AltAz. I’ve had both 130 and 150p Heritage scopes and have never used them on their dob mounts. I put them on a tripod mounted Alt Az like a Giro-WR and they are much more convenient to use. I did mod the 130p by moving the dovetail around a little so the eyepiece was at a more convenient angle but that wasn’t essential. So, popping them on an AltAz Goto would work well I think, provided there is sufficient space under the mount to accommodate the OTA when point up at the zenith.

The 150p is certainly a step up from the 130 but they are both very capable. Just a little extra light grab and a bit better resolution. I had good results on Mars with my 150p last opposition.

A2678727-CBEA-4E0B-A4BD-2F9224FB75F4.jpeg

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I can't comment on the mount, my experience is  strictly manual alt/az only, but I do own a heritage 150 on the original base, and a mak 127 on an AZ5. They make a good combination, 150 dob for DSOs, mak for planets and the Moon, with the mak a precise double the focal length of the dob ( 1500mm and 750mm respectively) and the difference in aperture does make a difference to the visibility of faint fuzzies from my light polluted suburban garden.

I did try the dob on my az5 when I got the mount (the dob was my first 'scope) and it would work fine, but I actually enjoy using the dob base, so stick to leaving the mak permanently on the AZ5. If you had access to the buy/swap area (which is limited for new members) I'd be asking if yo were anywhere near  JeremyS who is selling a heritage 150 for £150 , and you might consider a slightly smaller new 102 mak on a gti mount, which is £450 , making a neat £600 combination.

Heather

Heather

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Hi Matt - I can't comment from experience on your other choices but am getting great views of all kinds of objects with the SW 127 Mak on the AZGTi mount in Alt Az mode. 

I also frequently swap out the Mak and run other scopes on the mount which is a standard Vixen bar fit so see no reason why this wouldn't work well with your 130. 

The Maks are known for their planetary and lunar capabilities & the views of Saturn & Jupiter over the last few weeks have been everything I hoped for - on the nights of best seeing able to take magnification well over "twice the aperture in mm" rule.    I've had mine since Christmas and have been working my way through the Messier catalogue & assorted other doubles & clusters.   

On Galaxies I've been able to see form in a few M51, M81/M82 spring to mind as well as identifying some very faint smudges in Markarian's chain.  At a good Bortle 4 location I was able to pick up spiral form in some fainter galaxies like M61 & M99 in Virgo.   Planetary nebulae like the Ring & Dumbell show really well  & I've had great views of the star forming regions M42 & M8.     

The Mak seems a good tool for double stars showing lovely colour  contrast and on one night of great seeing I was able to cleanly split Tegmine, which at 1.1 arc secs of separation is right on the theoretical optical limits of the scope - so quite literally the "sky's the limit", not the optics! 

The other important point for me with the Mak is it is both robust, collimation-free and portable.  Although I started setting up quite gingerly I've become increasingly confident in its ruggedness over the course of the year.  This is important for me as I have get out of town to get to darker skies.  

 The fov is quite narrow (just over a degree at max) but once I fixed a Telrad & 9x50 finder side by side I haven't found this to be a problem.   The AZ GTi I have used successfully for both GoTo and tracking and its continuing to perform well, with the slight upgrade of a pan-base and uprated clamp its a nice manual Alt Az mount too. 

I note all the above as there's a tendency to say "Maks are great for planetary", which is true,  but my experience has been that with a reasonably dark sky & decent seeing, they're a great value, highly portable, no fuss  and optically crisp solution for a wide range of objects. 

 

Whichever way you go, have fun & clear skies! 

 

 

Edited by SuburbanMak
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2 hours ago, Matt Ikaruga said:

Love the setup Philip!

...

Thanks for all your responses so far. 

I forgot to mention that I have sold the Vixen GP mount... i.e. the one shown in the first image, as it was at its maximum payload in that configuration.

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14 hours ago, Matt Ikaruga said:

SW Mak 127 GTi

Celestron Astro Fi 6

SW Star Discovery p150i

The Mak is an excellent smaller scope that can be put on various mounts. Good for most tasks unless you want a wide field.

The Celestron Astro Fi 6 is another excellent scope, again good for most tasks unless you want a very wide field.

The Star Discovery by most reports is made down to a budget. The main mirror has no collimation adjustment, but this is not necessarily a disadvantage...

As for the mounts, I learnt to distrust WiFi when it was installed for the laptops at work and we had to take it all out again because of electrical interference. AFAIK these mounts can be used with a handset (at extra cost). Take a critical look at the weight rating and stability of these mounts, which all seem to be of the limited weight/portable variety.  Some people are tolerant of wobblemounts, but I am not.

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Thank you everyone for your responses. So thorough and friendly to this age old topic! 

@Tiny Clanger Really interesting idea that solution certainly.

Great rep for the little Mak it seems and certainly what I'd read elsewhere on here too. 

Genuinely blown away by your responses :)

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The difference between 130mm and 150mm aren't that great, especially on faint fuzzies. Atleast not to my eyes. It seems to me that you first of all is on the market for a goto mount? Perhaps a better idea would be to skip these combo options, and just purchase a mount? You can get the AZ-GTI mount head alone for £249 and a solid 1,75 inch steel tripod for @129 at FLO. That would beat all the mount/tripod combos you listed, and save you a few £. Something like the Astro fi combo gives you a better bang for your buck on the other hand..

Just some random thoughts while I enjoy my morning coffe. 

 

 

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44 minutes ago, grjsk said:

The difference between 130mm and 150mm aren't that great, especially on faint fuzzies. Atleast not to my eyes. It seems to me that you first of all is on the market for a goto mount? Perhaps a better idea would be to skip these combo options, and just purchase a mount? You can get the AZ-GTI mount head alone for £249 and a solid 1,75 inch steel tripod for @129 at FLO. That would beat all the mount/tripod combos you listed, and save you a few £. Something like the Astro fi combo gives you a better bang for your buck on the other hand..

Just some random thoughts while I enjoy my morning coffe. 

 

 

It’s an appreciated thought too! That is my concern with the 130 vs 150. Of course more light gathering power is a good thing.

The mount & tripod could indeed be a better idea, if the general consensus is that the mounts on these are too prone to vibrations etc.

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30 minutes ago, Matt Ikaruga said:

It’s an appreciated thought too! That is my concern with the 130 vs 150. Of course more light gathering power is a good thing.

The mount & tripod could indeed be a better idea, if the general consensus is that the mounts on these are too prone to vibrations etc.

It is fairly subjective what "too prone to vibrations" really is. With a goto mount you dont need to touch anything all the time either, which helps. That beeing said, unless super-portability is really important for you, for me a solid 1.75 inch steel tripod is a no-brainer even on these 5 kg weight limit mount heads. It just makes everything so much better. They are cheap and not that heavy either. You can upgrade your scope as much as you want, and have really high quality eyepieces, but if your mount doesn't perform, it really doesnt matter. 

 

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4 hours ago, grjsk said:

a solid 1.75 inch steel tripod is a no-brainer

I concur with this . The skywatcher steel tripod was one of the best things i bought ( and i regret selling) . There is no getting away with the tried and tested " a solid mount is imperitave " that is always written when people ask about new equipment . Many , including myself have tried to get round this but failed . Learn by others mistakes . 

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I'll third that ! Tripods may not be glamorous, but they are vital components.

I already owned a very sturdy old manfrotto 55 photo tripod, which takes my 127 mak and AZ5 head with no problem  central column locked tight,  2 of the thicker leg sections extended (I don't need the third, thinnest section out, it would lift the eyepiece over my head ...)

I have a less heavy/tall/sturdy/expensive manfrotto 190 tripod with a lighter alt az head which has my grab & go refractor permanently on it, to use it standing I have to  extend all three leg sections, and that introduces vibrations I don't see with just the  2 thickest leg sections and seated use, or with the 55. I've been a fan of photo tripods with clip locks rather than twist collar locks for decades, so would look for a second hand manfrotto 55 or a similar quality photo tripod if I was looking for another tripod. (Unless my premium bond came up, and I could afford one of those lovely wooden jobs ...)

Heather

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Stop opening cans of worms! 😅

I hear you loud and clear. So in essence something like you suggest above (I have an old Velbon CX888 but seems to only take a load of 3kg) or would the SW EQ5/HEQ5 be suitable as well, and you're suggesting they would be a significant enough upgrade to any of the above scopes if I was to add the SW AZ GTi WiFi Alt-Az mount?

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If you bought the EQ5 Synscan GoTo or the HEQ5 Synscan GoTo mount, that would stably support any of your choices of scope and leave some headroom for upgrades. As these are complete mount/tripods, you would not need the AZ GTi as well (unless you want to mount it on a light tripod for a grab'n go).

I should point out that even the EQ5 Synscan would use up all your £600 budget on its own. 🙁

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Yes that's a problem for me, strict budget so compromises will have to be made somewhere. 

Lots to consider, I'm favouring the Astro Fi at the moment but the wifi issues I read lots about are making me nervous along with the lack of freedom find that the SW mounts have (although, I'm probably making more of that feature than is really needed!)...

Another night sleeping on it, rain for the next week so less urgency to buy!

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40 minutes ago, Matt Ikaruga said:

Stop opening cans of worms! 😅

I hear you loud and clear. So in essence something like you suggest above (I have an old Velbon CX888 but seems to only take a load of 3kg) or would the SW EQ5/HEQ5 be suitable as well, and you're suggesting they would be a significant enough upgrade to any of the above scopes if I was to add the SW AZ GTi WiFi Alt-Az mount?

The SW steel tripod is about £130 https://www.firstlightoptics.com/tripods/sky-watcher-38-stainless-steel-tripod.html and would be preferable to the one you can buy bundled ( at a cost of about £90) with the azGTi , so rather than £336 for the bundled head + a lightweight tripod you will soon want to upgrade, you could spend £249 on the AZGTi and £129 on the more robust tripod = £378. That setup would easily take your 130 heritage, and leave you £220 to spend on an OTA . The only reason I can imagine for buying the bundled tripod would be if you specifically wanted a lightweight tripod for easy portability.

Personally, if it was me,  I'd buy the mount and tripod (except I'd save a bit and buy a secondhand manf. 55 for about £80) , and see how I got on using the heritage on it. If it works well enough for you to stick with it , you have £220 left burning a hole in your pocket. If the heritage doesn't do what you hoped for , you will have some idea if the shortcoming is aperture, or focal length, or what, and can buy one of the OTAs in the £200-£250 price range the mount can handle, maybe even sell the heritage on if you don't want to use it and add whatever cash it brings to your OTA buying piggy bank ...

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3 minutes ago, Tiny Clanger said:

personally, if it was me,  I'd buy the mount and tripod (except I'd save a bit and buy a secondhand manf. 55 for about £80) , and see how I got on using the heritage on it. If it works well enough for you to stick with it , you have £220 left burning a hole in your pocket. If the heritage doesn't do what you hoped for , you will have some idea if the shortcoming is aperture, or focal length, or what, and can buy one of the OTAs in the £200-£250 price range the mount can handle, maybe even sell the heritage on if you don't want to use it and add whatever cash it brings to your OTA buying piggy bank ...

I'd started having this thought actually, as it could a) be all I need right now with the 130 on it b) if a=true, I've saved £200+ c) if a=true & b=false, then yes absolutely spot on I've got a decent amount to spend on another OTA... sorry couldn't help getting a bit geeky on the trues & falses there! 

Just checking @Tiny Clanger you're refering to this goto mount in your suggestion? https://www.firstlightoptics.com/skywatcher-mounts/sky-watcher-az-gti-wifi-alt-az-mount-tripod.html Assuming you are based on the costs you give.

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1 minute ago, Matt Ikaruga said:

I'd started having this thought actually, as it could a) be all I need right now with the 130 on it b) if a=true, I've saved £200+ c) if a=true & b=false, then yes absolutely spot on I've got a decent amount to spend on another OTA... sorry couldn't help getting a bit geeky on the trues & falses there! 

Just checking @Tiny Clanger you're refering to this goto mount in your suggestion? https://www.firstlightoptics.com/skywatcher-mounts/sky-watcher-az-gti-wifi-alt-az-mount-tripod.html Assuming you are based on the costs you give.

Yep, not because I know anything whatsoever about that particular mount though , beyond it having a decent reputation , and it being available bundled with some 3kg-ish 'scopes , so I suppose it can cope with them: https://www.firstlightoptics.com/sky-watcher-az-gti-wifi.html

As I said before, I'm strictly a manual, alt/az, point-it- and-hope sort of observer , so proper experienced users opinions on which go-to would suit you in the price range will be more valuable than mine . I do know about tripods though 🙂 , Manfrotto 55s have been around for decades, and are often sold second hand quite cheaply without a head, if you use ebay I'm sure there will be plenty on offer, but camera dealers often take them in part exchange and sell them on fairly cheaply because they take up space in the stockroom , first example that came up on my search https://www.mpb.com/en-uk/used-equipment/used-accessories/used-photo-and-video-accessories/used-tripods-and-supports/manfrotto-055xprob-tripod/sku-1304574/

which might be a bit scruffy compared with a shiny new (but out of stock I expect) skywatcher steel job, but costs about £85 including  delivery, so that'd be £45 still in your pocket ...

Heather

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