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Best all around starter scope


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Hi, I have just begun my astronomy journey after a decade long break.  Finally bought my childhood dream scope a f5.9  8" dob after giving up on my classic '69 tasco 76mm 1200m due to problems with the mount.  I recently acquired a ? Early 70s tasco 60mm 700mm and converted it to 1.25" (huge headache, had to cut 35mm off ota to accommodate .965 adapter and shorter mirror diagonal.)  Now a colleague has asked  my advise on which scope to get her son for Xmas, under $200can.  I'm leaning toward suggesting a 80mm short scope 400mm or so.  Thought the powerseeker azs  would be good start except I'm not sure if it would satisfy a 13 yr olds planetary expectations.  I was looking at several travel scopes too, zhummel, svbony, celestron 70 to 80mm but I wasn't sure camera tripod would hold up.  I'd appreciate any suggestions. Thanks hugo

 

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4 hours ago, Stu1smartcookie said:

Good  selection from Louis , just to add as you mentioned planets a  little 102 Mak  would be lightweight and show good views ( although tbh i would go with the heritage as it offer a bit of everything and of course comes with a mount ) 

Since the 102 Mak starts out well over $200 without mount, I left it out.

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I own the aforementioned Skyscanner 100mm and couldn't have better things to say about it. There are some things I'd tell people who were considering it, though:

  • The primary mirror is insanely difficult to collimate but the upside is it holds its collimation almost indefinitely so it's a bit of a tradeoff. The secondary mirror collimates just as you'd expect with no issues with 3 thumb screws.
  • The included EPs are kind of trash. I mean, it's hard to really judge a $130 scope that includes literally anything so by that measure they're awesome and they work but these are the cheapest of Plossls Orion puts their labels on probably. What they're great for is lending the scope out. I just loaned it to my sister + a cheap barlow and I have literal 0 stress about anything. They do perform well.. for again practically free.
  • The scope is F4, keep that in mind when shopping your EPs, this is faster than your "big boy" so you may notice more aberrations if you're toting cheaper glass
  • Your sweet spot is going to probably be in the 10mm range for magnification but on good seeing nights you'll definitely lean on that EP + barlow. The included 10mm + barlow worked, this, was measurably worse.
  • The included dob is great and great for tossing in a car cause it should fit but if I was flying I'd probably want a way to stick it on a tripod without the included Dob (it does have a dovetail mount)
  • In Bortle 8-9 skies I'm able to see planets and lunar pretty darn well. Saturn's rings are resolved and will look even better if you're going beyond those stock EPs. Orion is barely noticeable. I see your location and think you're probably just laughing at me but thought I'd mention it :D

Super easy to use, super easy to hand it to someone and not be worried about them damaging expensive stuff, good price point, I'm happy and would recommend and definitely agree with it being included on the list.

The biggest thing I'd change is the size, perhaps a 6" reflector may be my sweet-spot for travel but this can't be a complaint since we're specifically shopping for something that's smaller here :D

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I bought an ST80 back in 2000 when they first came out.  After having used 8" and 15" Dobs for a few years before it, it was a huge let down.  All sorts of chromatic and spherical aberrations vastly limited contrast and ability to magnify the image.  It didn't even make a decent spotting scope.  Everything looked hazy.  It has sat at the bottom back of the closet unused for the majority of the past 20 years.

13 years later, I thought I'd give small fracs a second try with a 72ED and fell in love with it.  Sharp and color free at low to mid powers, high contrast, and the ability to use 2" eyepieces to get down to binocular level fields of view.  It's a great scope to complement a larger reflector.  However, I would never get a small frac of any quality level first.  Views of planets, planetary nebula, and globular clusters are just so lacking in resolution compared to a decently sized reflector.  The small frac excels at large open clusters and large nebula under dark skies that are out of reach of most large reflectors.  However, are they alone enough to keep a beginner interested?  Yes, you can make out Jupiter's moons and possibly some banding along with Saturn's rings, but not much more.

You can also view the moon and the sun (with a solar filter) fairly well with a small frac.  However, picking out Mercury during the most recent transit was a real challenge with the ST80 compared to the 8" Dob.  I couldn't get off work that day, so I had to bring a scope to work and use it in the parking lot on breaks.  I wasn't comfortable bringing my better gear to work because I work near a high crime area, so the ST80 was my choice for the day since it was stowed in the car between uses.

Basically, I skew heavily toward decently sized reflectors for beginners because they're more likely to keep them hooked on the hobby, but YMMV.

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5 hours ago, Louis D said:

I bought an ST80 back in 2000 when they first came out.  After having used 8" and 15" Dobs for a few years before it, it was a huge let down.  All sorts of chromatic and spherical aberrations vastly limited contrast and ability to magnify the image.  It didn't even make a decent spotting scope.  Everything looked hazy.  It has sat at the bottom back of the closet unused for the majority of the past 20 years.

13 years later, I thought I'd give small fracs a second try with a 72ED and fell in love with it.  Sharp and color free at low to mid powers, high contrast, and the ability to use 2" eyepieces to get down to binocular level fields of view.  It's a great scope to complement a larger reflector.  However, I would never get a small frac of any quality level first.  Views of planets, planetary nebula, and globular clusters are just so lacking in resolution compared to a decently sized reflector.  The small frac excels at large open clusters and large nebula under dark skies that are out of reach of most large reflectors.  However, are they alone enough to keep a beginner interested?  Yes, you can make out Jupiter's moons and possibly some banding along with Saturn's rings, but not much more.

You can also view the moon and the sun (with a solar filter) fairly well with a small frac.  However, picking out Mercury during the most recent transit was a real challenge with the ST80 compared to the 8" Dob.  I couldn't get off work that day, so I had to bring a scope to work and use it in the parking lot on breaks.  I wasn't comfortable bringing my better gear to work because I work near a high crime area, so the ST80 was my choice for the day since it was stowed in the car between uses.

Basically, I skew heavily toward decently sized reflectors for beginners because they're more likely to keep them hooked on the hobby, but YMMV.

Agree with the ST80 ... to a point .. but , as you said you were using 8" and 15" dobs before it ... Quelle Surprise ?  I also have a 72ED and i find the views of the planets more than good , when using the right magnification . 

But 

I find the whole "getting into astronomy "a confused mess , i will tell you why . Experienced people quite rightly have their own views that are sort after by complete beginners , nothing wrong with that . But the Scope suppliers aim certain scopes at beginners . Most beginners scopes tend to be at the cheaper end of the scale and , lets face it , there are some real dogs out there! i had the misfortune to briefly use a few . Not only were they cheaply constructed , the actual quality of image was poor . If those scopes are intended to enthuse beginners and draw them into the hobby , it won't work ! 

To be honest , Ed Ting has it right ... he ALWAYS suggests either a 150mm or a 200mm Dob as a great starter scope ... and as most of us have found , those scopes tend to stick around under our ownership or get bought again and again ( in my case ) as i realise they truly are scopes for everyone ( unless you live on the 8th floor of an apartment block) 

So , i , on refelection ( no pun intended ) would go along with your reflector selection . 

Now , i wonder what dobs are in stock ... i can see another dent in that credit card coming :)

 

Edited by Stu1smartcookie
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1 hour ago, Stu1smartcookie said:

To be honest , Ed Ting has it right ... he ALWAYS suggests either a 150mm or a 200mm Dob as a great starter scope ... and as most of us have found , those scopes tend to stick around under our ownership or get bought again and again ( in my case ) as i realise they truly are scopes for everyone ( unless you live on the 8th floor of an apartment block)

Exactly this. Dobs are amazing, so much so that the first time I tried a GoTo I was truly disappointed in how disconnected I was. It's also a confidence builder because there's a huge payoff when people point a red dot at Jupiter and find it with their hands. It also forces you to get familiar with the constellations, like if you're trying to find M57 you're going to be poking around Lyra and becoming familiar with the harp.

Also echo the size, as I said before, it's my only complaint with the Skyscanner 100 to the point of wishing I had something else, but again if we're talking travel and budget, this is more of a tradeoff situation.

If I were in your shoes I'd be considering the Starblast as the "slightly over budget, but perfect" option and the SkyScanner 100 as the perfectly acceptable runner up or reasonable facsimiles. I had someone recommend me this recently and I found it interesting.

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As someone who came into the hobby as an enthusiastic newbie this year, I found I was a bit overwhelmed by technical info and comparisons. EQ vs AZ mounts, fracs, maks, newts or dobs, fast scopes, slow scopes, good for DSO or planets.. . It blew my mind.

I looked at so many reviews and watched so many videos, and even though I had a pretty decent budget, I opted for the Heritage 150p.

I'm not sure it's possible to overestimate the value of a combination of simplicity, good optics and aperture for someone getting their first real experience of the hobby. I had a cheap department store refractor that sat in its box unused for 20 years because I couldn't get decent views with it.

For that reason, if someone asked me a similar question, I'd recommend the Heritage 130p if that's budget-friendly, or the Heritage 150p if there's a bit of wiggle room. The stock eyepieces are OK, and the mirrors are good. Mine was collimated fine right out of the box.

Obviously that's just my opinion, and based on what suited me, but hopefully a newbie perspective is useful.

MiladyB x

Edited by MiladyB
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12 hours ago, Hugo hazendonk said:

Thanks again every one.  Would a table top zhummel in the 100 to 130mm range compare in quality?  It would be more in the $200Can range. It's dso as far as I know, just like skywatcher.

Short refractors and Newtonians make for difficulty in observing the planets, and other higher-power objects.  Folks choose those for ergonomic reasons: easy to manage, easy to store, but optical performance necessarily takes a back seat.  I have the Zhumell Z100, same as the Orion "SkyScanner", other than tube-colour and placement of the focusser.  It's a 100mm f/4 Newtonian.  F/4 Newtonians make for better astrographs(imaging with a camera) than for observing objects with eyepieces and the eyes. 

People nowadays want their toys as small as possible, and regardless of the consequences.

I would strongly suggest not to go shorter than an f/5 for a Newtonian or Newtonian-Dobson, for the shorter the Newtonian the more difficult to collimate.  Then, choose no shorter than f/6 for a refractor; the longer the better actually.

https://www.all-startelescope.com/sales/product_info.php?cPath=21_112&products_id=624

I realise that that one is over the stated budget, but I've always liked to up the ante, and for a wholesome recommendation.  That kit is quite an outright steal during these troubling times.

This refractor kit might be tempting.  It is without its "StarSense" paraphernalia... https://www.all-startelescope.com/sales/product_info.php?products_id=2317

Otherwise, it would do just fine without it.  That would be a steal as well.  Despite its smaller aperture, there would be no collimation required.  Then, an 80mm aperture is nothing at which to sneeze, unless it's an ST80.

There would be a wait for that kit, new, otherwise... https://www.all-startelescope.com/sales/product_info.php?cPath=21_253&products_id=2048

This is currently everything in stock at Khan Scope... https://khanscope.com/collections/telescopes-mounts-in-stock

If you're not adverse to ordering from across the border, the pickings may be a bit better...

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1540259-REG/celestron_22451_starsense_explorer_lt_80.html

If you'd prefer to stay closer to the budget...

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/370181-REG/Celestron_21048_Powerseeker_80_EQ_3_1_80mm_Refractor.html

The mount of that one is not ideal for that telescope, but the telescope itself is well worth the price.  Most all entry-level refractors, ideally, require a star-diagonal for use at night.  The diagonals usually provided are two-in-one, for that terrestrial during the day, and that celestial at night, hence they're not ideal for either.

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6 hours ago, Alan64 said:

Short refractors and Newtonians make for difficulty in observing the planets, and other higher-power objects.  Folks choose those for ergonomic reasons: easy to manage, easy to store, but optical performance necessarily takes a back seat.  I have the Zhumell Z100, same as the Orion "SkyScanner", other than tube-colour and placement of the focusser.  It's a 100mm f/4 Newtonian.  F/4 Newtonians make for better astrographs(imaging with a camera) than for observing objects with eyepieces and the eyes. 

People nowadays want their toys as small as possible, and regardless of the consequences.

I would strongly suggest not to go shorter than an f/5 for a Newtonian or Newtonian-Dobson, for the shorter the Newtonian the more difficult to collimate.  Then, choose no shorter than f/6 for a refractor; the longer the better actually.

https://www.all-startelescope.com/sales/product_info.php?cPath=21_112&products_id=624

I realise that that one is over the stated budget, but I've always liked to up the ante, and for a wholesome recommendation.  That kit is quite an outright steal during these troubling times.

This refractor kit might be tempting.  It is without its "StarSense" paraphernalia... https://www.all-startelescope.com/sales/product_info.php?products_id=2317

Otherwise, it would do just fine without it.  That would be a steal as well.  Despite its smaller aperture, there would be no collimation required.  Then, an 80mm aperture is nothing at which to sneeze, unless it's an ST80.

There would be a wait for that kit, new, otherwise... https://www.all-startelescope.com/sales/product_info.php?cPath=21_253&products_id=2048

This is currently everything in stock at Khan Scope... https://khanscope.com/collections/telescopes-mounts-in-stock

If you're not adverse to ordering from across the border, the pickings may be a bit better...

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1540259-REG/celestron_22451_starsense_explorer_lt_80.html

If you'd prefer to stay closer to the budget...

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/370181-REG/Celestron_21048_Powerseeker_80_EQ_3_1_80mm_Refractor.html

The mount of that one is not ideal for that telescope, but the telescope itself is well worth the price.  Most all entry-level refractors, ideally, require a star-diagonal for use at night.  The diagonals usually provided are two-in-one, for that terrestrial during the day, and that celestial at night, hence they're not ideal for either.

I don't like, hate anything that he's saying I would just hate less on the F4 100mm format at the $130 price point.

There's also a tradeoff in convenience, might not be relevant to the kid you're buying it for but it's wholly relevant for me personally. The size of the 100mm reflector makes it so you can literally just plop it on the ground and look at a target. If I'm taking out the trash and Jupiter is shining bright I'll grab the small scope where I wouldn't set up the 12" truss, for instance. Having a tripod, adds to the complication, slightly, but it still matters. The best scope is the one you use, right? I use it, and if I had a 6" tube I'd probably still grab the 4" unless I knew I was sitting down for awhile and trying to catch something more detailed like a moon transit on Jupiter. The 5" people are talking about, I've never used but that could be the sweet spot if your wallet can allow.

If this kid breaks out the telescope on Christmas, uses it and then complains about the coma and distortion on the 100mm, that's it, sell your house and buy this kid an observatory. The obvious shortcomings the kid will notice is a lack of detail on magnification on planets, things will get real blurry, real narrow and real dim if you try and push it past the 10mm w/ barlow. If you're handy with a calculator you'd think you could push it more with the exit pupil and aperture but, it really does fall apart beyond this magnification. You'll get no complaints on moon views. I have the worst possible light pollution and I haven't taken this to a dark site, someone else will have to tell you about DSOs but I'd have to think in Manitoba it will nab you quite a few awesome shots of the brighter Messier objects.

As for collimation, I can only speak to the Skyscanner and while it's difficult, as I said the primary mirror essentially never needs to be touched and the secondary is no harder than any other scope.

On the 4" (F4 100mm) you'll be able to see Saturn's rings and just make out the bands on Jupiter without experienced seeing. That's a lot of power for $130, to me. Alan is way more experienced than me so if no one else echoes what I'm saying, I'd take his advice over mine.

20 hours ago, Hugo hazendonk said:

Thanks again every one.  Would a table top zhummel in the 100 to 130mm range compare in quality?  It would be more in the $200Can range. It's dso as far as I know, just like skywatcher.

The difference will be noticeable but not mind blowing. You're getting a lot less than 50% more light with the 130 over the 100. You're definitely getting more for paying more but in my head you're not getting 2x the value. But that's just my head. I'd also be the kind of person that impulsively bought the better scope trying to bless some kids education, so there's that. :D

 

 

Edited by HiveIndustries
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Thank you very much everyone  for your experienced input.  I've already recommended  the z114.  Good all round scope.  Best to recommend scope that also emphasizes wider views.  He lives in very dark skies, so I think 100 plus DSO targets rather than just 6 planetary and lunar targets  are  important  to impress on a young potential future astronomer.  Planets are cool, but there's  much more out there! As for planetary views this will be fine at 100 mag, very comprable to intro 80mm long refractor.  Eventually,  I could lend him my 76mm vintage tasco if he's serious about plantary.  I used to get great views of jupiter.   Again, thank you all for your input, but quite overwhelming, since this is my first experience on sl. Its proper ettiquete to end thread?

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The Z114, a 4.5" f/4 Newtonian, is a considerably better choice over the Z100, particularly under darker skies, of which we have just now discovered.

It's important to note that this will be a first and only telescope for a beginner.  The first objects at which the telescope will be aimed will be bright, and most of them small.  Most any telescope is good for the Moon, so that's not a consideration whilst choosing.  Thus far, I have gotten this high in power with the Z100, and at 112x, on the Moon, and with the kit's 10mm eyepiece combined with my 2.8x Klee barlow... 

1940002334_010417-10mmKlee.jpg.34fab46eccdb200e747e7d3199299c0e.jpg

 

Not bad; but then the Moon is very near to the Earth, bright, and large, the brightest after the Sun itself.   It's most easy to ramp up the power on the Moon, and still see something worth the while.

https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/341568-zhumell-z100-100mm-f4-newtonian/

Yes, there are far more deep-sky objects than those lunar, planetary and stellar, to enjoy, particularly under darker skies, therefore the greater the aperture the better, and in the hopes to see these dimmer denizens of the night, meaningfully, memorably.  The 114mm aperture will be no slouch for deep-sky observations, under dark skies, and, if the telescope is well-collimated, the planets and double-stars should not disappoint, either.  Incidentally, the vast majority of deep-sky objects are small, too: globular-clusters, galaxies, nebulae.  But those do need larger apertures to see them well, and you can only get that with the mirrors of a Newtonian; also those of a Schmidt-Cassegrain, but I digress.

Then, at the lower powers, yea, comets!

The Z114, unlike my Z100, is fully collimatable, particularly here at the primary-cell...

2gGaUBU.jpg

That will go a long way in ensuring a proper collimation.  There are springs inside that cell, of either rubber(grommets) or metal(springs).  Those of metal make collimation O! so much easier.

The kit will come with two eyepieces, and the same as those of my Z100...

oculars4.jpg.e05204184dd0c16f9274c3ee6765fffe.jpg

Those are really the only items of the kit that might be upgraded in future, over time.  Plossls are economical, too, yet are performance-driven.  A few decades ago they were quite expensive, but no longer.  Plossls also play very well with shorter, f/4 Newtonians; for example...

https://www.amazon.ca/Celestron-Omni-1-1-9MM-Eyepiece/dp/B00008Y0SB/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2ZK4LKGKDF8PJ&dchild=1&keywords=Celestron+9mm+plossl&qid=1635461102&sprefix=celestron+9mm+plossl%2Caps%2C177&sr=8-2

...and at 50x.  Combine the 9mm with a 2x-barlow, and for 100x.  The bundled 10mm modified-achromat eyepiece may be used instead, but the view at that power may not be as sharp, as clear.

In addition, that 9mm would no doubt cause one to begin exploring the intricacies of the Newtonian design.

In the end, in light of newfound information, and given these troubling times, the Z114 is a very good if not an excellent recommendation.

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Thanks again.  Good to know the z114 is fully collumatable and has less obstruction.  Would a home made collumation cap do?  That's what I use for my dob.  I have 10mm celestron ep that came with 60 mm astromaster LT I could lend him but I think it may be a kelner.  I thought of suggesting a 7 to 21mm zoom for warmer nights.  Would a 2x barlow be best?  He could even unscrew barlow lens and use it on the zoom to make 4.66 to 14 mm equivalent.

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6 minutes ago, Hugo hazendonk said:

Thanks again.  Good to know the z114 is fully collumatable and has less obstruction.  Would a home made collumation cap do?  That's what I use for my dob.  I have 10mm celestron ep that came with 60 mm astromaster LT I could lend him but I think it may be a kelner.  I thought of suggesting a 7 to 21mm zoom for warmer nights.  Would a 2x barlow be best?  He could even unscrew barlow lens and use it on the zoom to make 4.66 to 14 mm equivalent.

I would bring over some of my starter gear and see how it performs in the new scope sometime.  That which works well could be loaned to them until they can buy (or be gifted) their own.

I remember loaning a cheap 2x Barlow I had laying around to a coworker.  It was so bad (it added chroma and blur to the image), he returned it to me 6 months later despite me having forgotten all about it.  I guess what I'm saying is, don't go too cheap on a 2x Barlow. 😁

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11 hours ago, Hugo hazendonk said:

Thanks again.  Good to know the z114 is fully collumatable and has less obstruction.  Would a home made collumation cap do?  That's what I use for my dob.  I have 10mm celestron ep that came with 60 mm astromaster LT I could lend him but I think it may be a kelner.  I thought of suggesting a 7 to 21mm zoom for warmer nights.  Would a 2x barlow be best?  He could even unscrew barlow lens and use it on the zoom to make 4.66 to 14 mm equivalent.

2x-barlows are more commonplace.  Yes, he can start with one of those, learn about it, and what it does exactly.  A zoom-ocular serves primarily as a teaching-tool.  Say that you observe mostly at the 16mm of the zoom over time, then you may wish to get a dedicated 16mm eyepiece.

A collimation-cap can be made with the focusser's dust-cap that will come with the kit.  This is the collimation-cap that came with my 150/750...

909947900_collimationcap.jpg.4393b4e9f11f5d5025ebf0b84650ab28.jpg

It also acts as a dust-cap.  Why, someone mentioned, somewhere, that that tiny hole in the centre of the cap provided ventilation for the telescope when stored.  I have my doubts.  But the one that will come with the Z114 will be a dust-cap only, I expect, and without a hole.

The hole is 2mm in diameter.  It should not be larger.  The larger, the less accurate the collimation.  The hole would have to be drilled out, precisely in the centre of the cap, then a circle cut out from the dull side of a sheet of aluminium-foil, to be placed on the underside of the cap, as shown.  The circle can be best secured with double-sided tape.  Glue might be too messy.  The foil will need the same diameter hole as the cap itself, both aligned as one.  There should be a mark, a bump perhaps, in the centre of the dust-cap, on the top or bottom or both, from the manufacturing process, which will assist in finding the centre. 

You can also take a school-type compass, describe a circle slightly smaller than the diameter of the cap, cut the circle out precisely, fold it precisely in half, then fold that in half, precisely.  I can't say that enough in the doing of this -- precisely, precisely, precisely -- as you're working with something small, scientific.  You then take a needle, punch a hole precisely where the folding-marks intersect in the centre.  After that, flatten the circle, completely, then place it over the top of the cap, whilst centring it by noting the visible sliver of the edge of the cap all round, then make your drilling-mark.

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