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Buying a better telescope - Skywatcher Startravel refractors


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Last year I got some good advice here. The title was "Buying a better telescope" starting on 8 April. I had to delay the purchase because of lack of stock, but now there's more equipment available.

I'm thinking of buying a Skywatcher Startravel telescope for general astronomy. I'd like a fairly simple scope, easy to set up and take down, and not too heavy. I won't be doing photography and I don't want to buy a GOTO scope.

I could get the 102mm AZ3. It's fairly light, I believe its about 4.5kg, but I'm not sure. Some forum members have suggested that this mount is a bit wobbly.

My other option is the 102mm AZ5 deluxe. It's got a better mount, and there's a finderscope included. It's a bit heavy at about 7.5kg.

What do forum members think of these two scopes please?

 

(Equipment - Canon 32x10 IS binoculars, Celestron Explorascope 114mm AZ)

Edited by keora
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Hi there, I would go with the AZ5 deluxe, an absolutely solid combination, here is a picture of the one I bought my wife (focuser upgraded to a crayford, 2" diagonal added, the synta finder shoe is also added), you will find the included 1.25" diagonal disappointing, it is plastic and very cheaply made, unlike the rest of the scope: 

 

20220101_102439.jpg

Edited by rwilkey
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I had said scope and recommendation to use it on AZ4 or AZ5 versus AZ3 is good one.

Those two are simply better mounts for number of reasons.

ST102 is not scope for general astronomy. It is telescope for deep sky observation / wide field primarily.

View of planets will be very poor as it is fast achromat with serious chromatic aberration and some spherical aberration (spherochromatism). Lunar views should also be restricted to low power / full disc viewing.

Here is lunar image taken with said scope:

image.png.4f450129feed28793b8120dccf746c95.png

you can see yellow fringing even at this low power.

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Thank you for your interest.

Robin, what's the finderscope like, does it have a fairly wide field of vision? How easy is it to take off the optical tube assembly so that it can be carried and stored separately to the mount and tripod?

Vlaiv, that's a great photo. I can see there's a yellow fringe on the arc of the moon. Perhaps I should accept that aberrations will occur. I spoke to a telescope retailer today, I asked him about buying an apo type refractor. He said they are very expensive. What sort of scope would you recommend for general astronomy please?

 

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APO scopes can be really expensive, but you can also find the middle ground - something not completely color free but as good ST102 on deep sky object and much better on planets than ST102.

One such scope is this:

https://www.altairastro.com/starwave-ascent-102ed-f7-refractor-telescope-geared-focuser-468-p.asp

This comes as OTA alone and you'll have to purchase other accessories for it.

Again, it will sit well on AZ4 type mount.

It is the same aperture but a bit slower at F/7 (while still being small in size). This is good because eyepieces will work better on slower scope. This scope will show much better image at high magnifications, although it will still be some purple fringing on highest magnifications and on brightest targets (like Vega and Venus for example - possible a bit purple fringing on Jupiter as well - but image will be miles better than ST102 on these targets).

If you want to have "universal" type instrument that will do it all - then I'm afraid it is newtonian reflector. Only drawback is the size / bulk and need for collimation. Something like 6" F/5 newtonian will have plenty of light grasp to show you DSOs, short enough focal length to be able to show wide field views but also, with addition of barlow capable of nice high power views. No color issues with it.

Alternative to having one scope is to purchase two scopes. With two low cost scopes you can have almost the same performance as single apo - for less money.

ST102 together with Mak102 is such combination.

ST102 excels at low power wide field observing, while Mak102 is high power specialist for lunar and planetary viewing.

For example - this package (although, someone will need to confirm it is good mount + scope combination:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/startravel/sky-watcher-starquest-102r-f49-achromatic-refractor-telescope.html

and

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-102-ota.html

I like that StarQuest mount as it can work as both AZ mount and EQ mount. It is lightweight mount however, and I'm not sure if it will be stable enough. Az4 or Az5 are going to be much more stable mounts (and heavier).

To get the idea of what sort of views are possible with Mak102 (I have that scope as well) - here is the moon taken with that scope:

image.png.7d58d8bf7313e5da396605a687367a28.png

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The Startravel 102 is very limited - wide field only. 

If you are happy with a maximum 1.25° field of view (32mm eyepiece), the the 102mm Mak is an excellent choice. Much better optics than the Startravel and will give quite satisfying planetary views.

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I bought a Startravel 102mm initially on impulse, to complement my 127m Maksutov.  I found little use for it (yes it does widefield but in Bortle 6 skies this is rather underwhelming) until I found it worked well as a budget imaging scope for EVAA (q.v).

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Thank you for the comments. I decided not to buy the separate parts of a telescope and combine them because I don't know enough about telescopes.

I'm thinking of spending about £400, and although some of the telescopes suggested seem to be very good quality, they are probably outside my budget.

Michael, I did consider buying a Maksutov. I decided not to, because I've read some comments suggesting that they may  be more expensive and heavier than other types.

Edited by keora
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2 hours ago, keora said:

Thank you for the comments. I decided not to buy the separate parts of a telescope and combine them because I don't know enough about telescopes.

I'm thinking of spending about £400, and although some of the telescopes suggested seem to be very good quality, they are probably outside my budget.

Michael, I did consider buying a Maksutov. I decided not to, because I've read some comments suggesting that they may  be more expensive and heavier than other types.

I started three years ago with the below although it was quite a bit cheaper.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/telescopes-in-stock/sky-watcher-explorer-130ps-az5-deluxe.html

The telescope was sold to a very happy buyer so I could try other styles, however don't let  the sale detract. If it was given back to me now I'd snap it up as I'm stuck for a very light weight grab and go scope at the moment.

The heft of the AZ5 mount made the telescope feel over mounted and the slomo controls were in the perfect position and worked very well. I've tried four different telescopes on this mount (albeit with a steel tripod) and the 130PS still remains the one that fitted the mount best.

This telescope introduced me into astronomy and I observed a great deal for the first time under my urban skies. Take it somewhere dark for extra 'wow' moments.

The secondary mirror may need collimating *occasionally* but this is a process which with practice only takes a couple of minutes using a collimation cap (<£10) and an allen key. The focuser isn't the best, but you get what you pay for and it does the job.

I still have the mount plus tripod and they have seen a great deal of use.

A max budget of £400 will leave you enough to buy an extra eyepiece or two. Alternatively the whole kit fits nicely in the bag below (I still use mine) with space for plenty of accessories:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/telescope-bags-cases-storage/oklop-padded-bag-for-small-telescopes.html

Short term you could buy the kit, a collimation cap and the bag, then when you have £25-50 to spare, buy an an extra eyepiece, building a small collection.

Bear in mind you cannot really use newtonians for terrestrial use because the view is upside down (this doesn't matter in space 😀). However, this is the nearest to a 'multi purpose' astronomical design from all those mentioned.

 

Edited by ScouseSpaceCadet
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On 31/01/2022 at 19:58, Mr Spock said:

The Startravel 102 is very limited - wide field only. 

If you are happy with a maximum 1.25° field of view (32mm eyepiece), the the 102mm Mak is an excellent choice. Much better optics than the Startravel and will give quite satisfying planetary views.

I'm now wondering if the 102mm Mak might be better than my original choice of the Startravel 102. However what puts me off the Maksutov is the 1.25 degree field of view. My current basic Newtonian has roughly the same field of view. I've tried star hopping and found I couldn't identify any of the stars on my route to a distant target. I've no problem finding dim stars using Canon bins (10X32 Fov about 5 degrees ) while checking on the route with Sky Safari on an iPad.

How easy is it to attach say a 6 X 30 finderscope to the Maksutov. Do you have to drill into the tube to fix the finderscope? or is there a more elegant method of attaching it?

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

After reading all the advice, I bought a 102mm Maksutov - here it is:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/telescopes-in-stock/sky-watcher-skymax-102s-az-pronto.html

It's a well designed telescope. The tripod is stable. The mount is easy to use by turning two separate handles to rotate or raise the telescope- with my first telescope I had to nudge it to get it to move. The telescope has a focal length of 1300mm yet has an actual length of only 300mm. The complete outfit weighs only 6kg and it's very easy to carry around. I didn't bother setting up the red dot finder, instead I paid extra for a 9 X 50 finderscope, which fits into the slot where the red dot finder would go. Although the 25mm eyepiece is good, the 10mm eyepiece a very restricted field of view. This may be due to wearing glasses. Instead I use some good quality plossl eyepieces which I bought a year ago.

Overall, it's a good telescope, it's easy to find stars and it looks good.

 

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1 hour ago, keora said:

After reading all the advice, I bought a 102mm Maksutov - here it is:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/telescopes-in-stock/sky-watcher-skymax-102s-az-pronto.html

It's a well designed telescope. The tripod is stable. The mount is easy to use by turning two separate handles to rotate or raise the telescope- with my first telescope I had to nudge it to get it to move. The telescope has a focal length of 1300mm yet has an actual length of only 300mm. The complete outfit weighs only 6kg and it's very easy to carry around. I didn't bother setting up the red dot finder, instead I paid extra for a 9 X 50 finderscope, which fits into the slot where the red dot finder would go. Although the 25mm eyepiece is good, the 10mm eyepiece a very restricted field of view. This may be due to wearing glasses. Instead I use some good quality plossl eyepieces which I bought a year ago.

Overall, it's a good telescope, it's easy to find stars and it looks good.

 

Welcome to the Mak appreciation society - they deliver great optics at a keen price & the grab and go convenience and stability of the short tube is invaluable. Also originally designed (I believe) as spotters for tanks & they have a certain ruggedness as a result.  I have both a Telrad finder and a 9x50 on my 127 Mak - the Telrad gets you in the right zone then switch to the finder to zero in.   With your 102 the Telrad would be a bit big (SGLers have joked about my “Mak mounted on a Telrad”) but adding a Rigel Quickfinder would be possible on the 102  and the combo really makes short work of starhopping & effectively negates the navigational challenges of a narrower field.  
There are a handful of objects that won’t look their best in the narrower view but that’s what binoculars are for ;) 

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49 minutes ago, bosun21 said:

You are not alone in this 😂5E38B8AB-C13E-4DC7-992C-A9A94622D274.thumb.jpeg.c0f98cde7d85c71e973687de174ae200.jpeg

I might take a leaf out of your book and move the Telrad forward a bit - I occasionally bang my head on mine especially if using a lower profile EP. 

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I initially had the idea that Maksutovs were susceptible to dew forming on the objective. I bought one of those collapsible cylinders that you stick on the end of the tube, and I’ve had no problems at all with Dee.

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