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Walking on the Moon

First scope - 4" Refractor FPL-53 Doublet - Full Setup Target £2k


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Hi fellow SGers 👋

I'm pretty new here but have enjoyed devouring the forum over the past couple of weeks.

I tried to resist buying a scope too early 🙄. I've made my way through a large share of a couple of decent books 🤓, I've been to a star party 🥳, I've played with my binoculars :glasses9:, and now, I can't wait any longer, I'm jumping in 😈.

I will share this hobby with my wife and children (11 & 13). Initially our interest lies in the moon and planets because, as complete beginners, I think there's a lot more awe and amazement to be had seeing our celestial neighbours in greater detail - an instant gratification thing. I think it'll also avoid the disappointment of real-time viewing of nebulae and galaxies as faint, fuzzy, white blurs, compared to the wonders of the universe we see with Brian Cox. Though we would like a scope that would be flexible enough for us to start to explore the milky way and some brighter DSOs with a reasonably wide field of view. We're only interested in viewing at present.     

I live in an international dark sky reserve in Dorset so we'll spend 80% of our time observing from home, though we have far better sites at elevation within a 20min drive that we want to enjoy regularly. For this reason, the setup should be reasonably light and portable

The range of 102 F7 FPL-53 Refractors have caught my eye, and I might be landing on the Tecnosky from Astrograph.

This is what I'm considering, (prices EXCLUDE VAT):

  • Tecnosky 102/700 F7 FPL-53 EDO APO Doublet £874
  • Berlebach Spica Alt-Az Mount (£158) with 200mm shaft and a 3kg counter weight (£74)
  • Ibis Obelisk Carbon Tripod with Ball Head (£265)
  • APM 2" Prism Diagonal (£180)
  • APM Super Zoom 7.7mm-15.4mm Constant 67° AFOV (£324)
  • Baader Planetarium Sky Surfer V Red Dot Finder (£91)

Total price (including VAT) £2,360

I hadn't realised at first that the prices I was looking at were net of tax and this is more than I would want to spend. I'd like to get in below a target of £2,000 but I don't know where to make savings.

Questions

  • Is this a good scope for my goals? What else must I consider outside of this 'family' of 102ED. (Note, I would like to keep CA to a minimum so prefer EPL-53 option)
  • If only viewing, and not imaging (at present), is my snobbery for EPL-53 justified?
  • If I need to find a 20% saving where do I look?  Should I go for a 3" scope?
  • I chose the APM super zoom for ease of use, and this model over the Baader Zoom because of the fixed FOV at 67deg across the magnification range. Is this the wrong way to approach eyepieces?
  • Should I go for individual fixed length eyepieces over the zoom? If so, which would provide the range I would need for my goals?
  • Should I go for 1.25" eye-pieces in favour of 2"? To save cost and weight? What would be better?

Please, somebody help me spend £2k as sensibly as we can. I know there'll be many varied opinions but it's really the nuts and bolts I'm seeking advice for, right now, I don't want to be swayed away from a Refractor (unless it's an absolute no-brainer 🤪).

I still have a great deal to learn and thank you in advance for your help.

Thanks in advance, Mark 🙏

 

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I know you said you have looked through some scopes, did you look thru a 8 inch dob.  Its not heavy when you split it into its 2 major pieces, its easily transportable, will do everything you want to do and cost a whole lot less then 2 grand.  If you are spending 80% of your time at home then even a 10 inch comes into play.  I am not going to promote one over the other, but a dob wins in the aperture and bang for buck category everytime. 

Edited by Mike Q
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21 minutes ago, Mr Spock said:

Here is my (similar) selection:

1454943120_DSC_0356_DxO1200.jpg.97e5b789334da5b9c6f6294e30f53e86.jpg

And a few of these

123723035_DSC_0368_DxO1200.jpg.b00d06a6485403d3dca1fc93f28992b7.jpg

Doable for under £2k I believe and all from FLO :wink2:

 

This looks like a quality setup.

Bearing in my mind I have zero equipment to start with, i wonder where the savings are made specifically to get this in budget. Also, wonder how portable the tripod is for putting into a backpack and hiking uphill.

I know I looked at the Starfield option (because I think it's actually the exact same scope but branded otherwise) and thought it was the exact same price - but looking again, I think the price on FLO includes VAT, but not at Astrograph - that would make a 20% difference....

10mm and 16mm eyepieces are recommends then? Are they 2"? And a Baader diagonal by the looks of it - I'd go clicklock for ease. 

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9 minutes ago, Mike Q said:

I know you said you ha e looked through some scopes, did you look thru a 8 inch dob.  Its not heavy when you split it into its 2 major pieces, its easily transportable, will do everything you want to do and cost a whole lot less then 2 grand.  If you are spending 80% of your time at home then even a 10 inch comes into play.  I am not going to promote one over the other, but a dob wins in the aperture and bang for buck category everytime. 

I have looked at the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter through a 6", 8" and 10", and was impressed, but wondered if this would:

  • limit my viewing to lunar and planetary
  • prevent me having an impromptu 20min session
  • be a pain dragging up 200m climbs to local dark sky sites 
  • limit imaging options for the future
  • Give the same degrees of contrast and detail in sub-optimal conditions 

...compared to a grab 'n' Go frac

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The mount isn't suitable for back pack - so you'd have to go with something else.

The Baader diagonal is 2" and £235, but needs a 1.25" adaptor £70. Serious quality though. A luxury really; you can get good diagonals for a third of the price, especially if you only need a 1.25" fitting.

The Nirvanas are 1.25", very sharp, and only £79 to £89 each - you don't need all five though! Three would be enough. I started with 16, 10, 7, then added the 13 and 4 later. Zooms are fine but do you really need those in between magnifications?

The Baader finder is £35 + you'll need a shoe as the Starfield doesn't come fitted with any.

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If you want a 4" refractor for visual use, there is no need to spend that much money.  For centuries, amateurs were entirely happy with achromatic refractors of long focal ratio. A present-day example is here: Sky-Watcher Evostar 102 (EQ3-2) | First Light Optics

Recently the various ED scopes have appeared, which offer a potentially better colour correction in a shorter tube, at a substantially higher price.

The combination of a short focal ratio and good colour correction is particularly relevant to deep-space astrophotography.  Not so much for visual use.

If you want to spend your money on an expensive premium scope, that's up to you, but if you are willing to spend £2000 there are plenty other options with bigger aperture and features like GoTo.

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14 minutes ago, Nitecoda said:

I have looked at the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter through a 6", 8" and 10", and was impressed, but wondered if this would:

  • limit my viewing to lunar and planetary
  • prevent me having an impromptu 20min session
  • be a pain dragging up 200m climbs to local dark sky sites 
  • limit imaging options for the future
  • Give the same degrees of contrast and detail in sub-optimal conditions 

...compared to a grab 'n' Go frac

Will it limit lunar viewing.  No it wont.  I get excellent images of the moon with the 10 inch.  Plus you can throw crazy amounts of magnification at the moon and get great images.

There are plenty of ways to move a dob around easily.  A  hand truck makes them easy to move.  So a 20 minutes quickie session isnt an issue.

Yes dragging a dob up to a dark sky sight can be a pain.  As far as imagining sure you can do moon and planets but real AP isnt really going to happen.

As far as contrast goes, that depends on how much you spend on the frac.  A good dob with a good mirror will show a great deal.

Now here is some food for thought.  You are willing to spend 2300 bucks. As pointed out you can spend a lot less then that on one scope.  So maybe consider one of each.  One for home and one to grab and go hiking with. 

 

 

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32 minutes ago, Cosmic Geoff said:

which offer a potentially better colour correction

Potentially? Anyone who had looked though an achro and an ED of the same aperture wouldn't make that comment!

19 minutes ago, Mike Q said:

You are willing to spend 2300 bucks

Pounds - this is a UK site :wink2:

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Thank you @Cosmic Geoff. I looked at the Moon, Mars (albeit close to the horizon), and Jupiter through a 102/500 Skywatcher StarTravel with various eyepieces at the latest gathering of my local club. I've also looked through a friends 76mm Takahashi. There was a lot less false colour through the Tak and it made the Skywatcher look almost fake and out of focus to me. I know I can't compare the equipment at the price points, and I'm not proposing a Tak. I'm trying to find that happy medium.

Ideally it won't be an expensive premium scope - I didn't think that was what I was aiming at with a £900 Frac. I'm happy to consider lower quality glass if it's not going to result in a lack of excitement when we use it for live viewing only.

Thanks 

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21 minutes ago, Mike Q said:

Will it limit lunar viewing.  No it wont.  I get excellent images of the moon with the 10 inch.  Plus you can throw crazy amounts of magnification at the moon and get great images.

There are plenty of ways to move a dob around easily.  A  hand truck makes them easy to move.  So a 20 minutes quickie session isnt an issue.

Yes dragging a dob up to a dark sky sight can be a pain.  As far as imagining sure you can do moon and planets but real AP isnt really going to happen.

As far as contrast goes, that depends on how much you spend on the frac.  A good dob with a good mirror will show a great deal.

Now here is some food for thought.  You are willing to spend 2300 bucks. As pointed out you can spend a lot less then that on one scope.  So maybe consider one of each.  One for home and one to grab and go hiking with. 

 

 

Thanks @Mike Q, great feedback. I don't think I'll get away with two 🤐

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Here is my suggestion…..

This for grab and go…..

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/scopetech-telescopes/starbase-80-refractor-and-mount-package.html
 

And this for serious detail on the planets… but it’s a superb allrounder too.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/stellalyra-telescopes/stellalyra-8-f6-dobsonian.html

And well under your budget 👍

Edited by dweller25
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@Mr Spock  The Starfield setup comes in around £1,800 *the 2" to 1" adaptor not included in this example.

I think the saving here is coming from a combined mount and stand in the EQ5, and moving away from the EPM Zoom to some fixed length eyepieces. Am I losing any noticeable benefits (other than cost) with 1.25" eyepieces vs 2"?

Maybe, for now, I build for the back garden and add a mobile tripod for field trips at a later date......

 

image.thumb.png.e59c525308dc5034ef615ca221f30bf0.png

Edited by Nitecoda
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1 hour ago, Nitecoda said:

This is what I'm considering, (prices EXCLUDE VAT):

  • Tecnosky 102/700 F7 FPL-53 EDO APO Doublet £874
  • Berlebach Spica Alt-Az Mount (£158) with 200mm shaft and a 3kg counter weight (£74)
  • Ibis Obelisk Carbon Tripod with Ball Head (£265)
  • APM 2" Prism Diagonal (£180)
  • APM Super Zoom 7.7mm-15.4mm Constant 67° AFOV (£324)
  • Baader Planetarium Sky Surfer V Red Dot Finder (£91)

Remember, FCD-100 is basically the same as FPL-53, only from Hoya instead of Ohara, so consider scopes using it as well.

Consider an FPL-51/FCD-1 102mm.  These are generally referred to simply as ED scopes.  It will save you some money if your budget is fixed, and will show increased color fringing only at higher powers.  It still won't have anywhere near the level of unfocused colors as in an achromat.  Even an FPL-53/FCD-100 doublet will show some false color at higher powers.  No refractor will ever be 100% color free like a pure reflector as with a Newtonian.  The Canon Digisuper broadcast zoom lenses come mighty close, but at a $200,000 cost.

Consider getting a sturdier alt-az mount that doesn't require a counter weight.  Why lug dead weight up that 200m hill?  Put that same weight into a better mount.

A GSO dielectric diagonal will probably be just as good visually as that prism diagonal starting out, but at much less cost.

A range of magnifications from 46x to 93x with the APM SZ would be fine for most observing, but you'd still want something wider to maximize your true field of view for objects like the Pleiades and for centering objects.  For higher powers, you might want to invest in a good Barlow as well.

I'd save a few bucks and get either a basic RDF or a Rigel QuikFinder instead of the Baader SF RDF.

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10 minutes ago, dweller25 said:

Here is my suggestion…..

This for grab and go…..

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/scopetech-telescopes/starbase-80-refractor-and-mount-package.html
 

And this for serious detail on the planets… but it’s a superb allrounder too.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/stellalyra-telescopes/stellalyra-8-f6-dobsonian.html

And well under your budget 👍

Now that is food for thought. My feeling (perhaps incorrectly) is that I should invest as much as I can into a single solution, rather than go half-cocked with two that don't quite make the cut..... (I accept that this may be an ill-informed and unreasonable response from a beginner)

Great options there though @dweller25  

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15 minutes ago, Nitecoda said:

Thank you @Cosmic Geoff. I looked at the Moon, Mars (albeit close to the horizon), and Jupiter through a 102/500 Skywatcher StarTravel with various eyepieces at the latest gathering of my local club. I've also looked through a friends 76mm Takahashi. There was a lot less false colour through the Tak and it made the Skywatcher look almost fake and out of focus to me. I know I can't compare the equipment at the price points, and I'm not proposing a Tak. I'm trying to find that happy medium.

Ideally it won't be an expensive premium scope - I didn't think that was what I was aiming at with a £900 Frac. I'm happy to consider lower quality glass if it's not going to result in a lack of excitement when we use it for live viewing only.

Thanks 

I have a 102mm Skywatcher Startravel, and agree that the performance is not great.  But this is a f5 achromat, and if you think its performance is typical of what you would see with a f10 achromat, you are entirely missing the point.  A chart has been posted more than once on this forum showing the colour correction performance of achromatic telescopes according to focal ratio and aperture.   Large apertures with short focal ratio are dire, while small apertures and long focal ratio are very acceptable.   

I own a vintage 70mm achromat refractor with a very long focal ratio and the colour correction is entirely adequate, and the overall performance is superb.  On the other hand, it is rather long and heavy.  🙂

You clearly appreciate the quality of premium priced kit. But will your family appreciate the difference when looking through they eyepiece? I doubt it.

 

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I really like some of these suggestions @Louis D.

I did not know that about FCD-100 but the scope I'm looking at isn't a double EPL-53 either, I think the second is Lanthanum.

I'd be happy enough with discoloration limited to super magnification.

I may push the field setup back to next spring/summer and instead for an EQ mount, similar to @Mr Spock solution.

The APM SZ may be over-kill and too much of a catch-all, I was trying to keep viewing simpler for kids (and me if I'm being lazy I suppose).

Point taken on RDF.

Thanks

 

7 minutes ago, Louis D said:

Remember, FCD-100 is basically the same as FPL-53, only from Hoya instead of Ohara, so consider scopes using it as well.

Consider an FPL-51/FCD-1 102mm.  These are generally referred to simply as ED scopes.  It will save you some money if your budget is fixed, and will show increased color fringing only at higher powers.  It still won't have anywhere near the level of unfocused colors as in an achromat.  Even an FPL-53/FCD-100 doublet will show some false color at higher powers.  No refractor will ever be 100% color free like a pure reflector as with a Newtonian.  The Canon Digisuper broadcast zoom lenses come mighty close, but at a $200,000 cost.

Consider getting a sturdier alt-az mount that doesn't require a counter weight.  Why lug dead weight up that 200m hill?  Put that same weight into a better mount.

A GSO dielectric diagonal will probably be just as good visually as that prism diagonal starting out, but at much less cost.

A range of magnifications from 46x to 93x with the APM SZ would be fine for most observing, but you'd still want something wider to maximize your true field of view for objects like the Pleiades and for centering objects.  For higher powers, you might want to invest in a good Barlow as well.

I'd save a few bucks and get either a basic RDF or a Rigel QuikFinder instead of the Baader SF RDF.

 

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1 minute ago, Cosmic Geoff said:

I have a 102mm Skywatcher Startravel, and agree that the performance is not great.  But this is a f5 achromat, and if you think its performance is typical of what you would see with a f10 achromat, you are entirely missing the point.  A chart has been posted more than once on this forum showing the colour correction performance of achromatic telescopes according to focal ratio and aperture.   Large apertures with short focal ratio are dire, while small apertures and long focal ratio are very acceptable.   

I own a vintage 70mm achromat refractor with a very long focal ratio and the colour correction is entirely adequate, and the overall performance is superb.  On the other hand, it is rather long and heavy.  🙂

You clearly appreciate the quality of premium priced kit. But will your family appreciate the difference when looking through they eyepiece? I doubt it.

 

Thanks @Cosmic Geoff, I do have a lot to learn, I am aware somewhat of the impact of focal length and objective diameter combination. I was going for a shorter focal length for portability and felt that an f/7 was a happy enough medium, though an f/10 may be better for our initial target objects.  

I don't know if any of us will appreciate the difference but I'm quickly learning if it's likely, thanks to this forum and research.

I do appreciate the input from all of you on this.

Thank you 🙏

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14 minutes ago, Nitecoda said:

Am I losing any noticeable benefits (other than cost) with 1.25" eyepieces vs 2"?

Not really, other than a low power wide field option. The 16mm will give you x44 and 1.86° so not bad on its own. Any 2" widefield eyepiece of quality will be big, heavy and expensive.

I can't answer for others but my 102mm shows no false colour at high power; it is also even inside and outside of focus which shows good SA correction, again with no false colour.

I also have a decent 120mm f8 achro. It's not even a close match to the Starfield, in fact, it's gone into a cupboard where it will stay permanently! 

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1 hour ago, Mr Spock said:

The mount isn't suitable for back pack - so you'd have to go with something else.

The Baader diagonal is 2" and £235, but needs a 1.25" adaptor £70. Serious quality though. A luxury really; you can get good diagonals for a third of the price, especially if you only need a 1.25" fitting.

The Nirvanas are 1.25", very sharp, and only £79 to £89 each - you don't need all five though! Three would be enough. I started with 16, 10, 7, then added the 13 and 4 later. Zooms are fine but do you really need those in between magnifications?

The Baader finder is £35 + you'll need a shoe as the Starfield doesn't come fitted with any.

@Mr SpockI can swap out the EVM SZ and take advantage of teh Baader Zoom and Barlow combination offer - at £303 - which is only a smidgen over the price of 3 x fixed length eyepieces......

I'm not sure if I still need the Adaptor if I go for the Baader Clicklock 2" DiElectric Star Diagonal (???)

I like the idea of a 2" diagonal to give me the option for both 1.25" and 2" later.

I need to finalise the finder (I like the idea of red dot) and may also need a finder shoe if the telescope doesn't come with?

I might be arriving at a sub-£2k back garden option.....

image.thumb.png.36e6bc1145a4227530b15927f35890f5.png

Edited by Nitecoda
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51 minutes ago, Nitecoda said:

Now that is food for thought. My feeling (perhaps incorrectly) is that I should invest as much as I can into a single solution, rather than go half-cocked with two that don't quite make the cut..... (I accept that this may be an ill-informed and unreasonable response from a beginner)

Great options there though @dweller25  

Sadly there may be no such thing as a single solution - or have I been missing it for the last 40 years ? 😂

Edited by dweller25
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If your aim is purely visual you should consider a Newtonian type telescope (includes dob) as you can have large apertures which is required for visual. If not then a refractor will do but note they can get heavy despite their diminutive appearance compared to a Newtonian, which will also impact your choice of mount+tripod. You will need a fairly sturdy mount+tripod to reduce vibrations which is the main irk when doing visual.

Having owned an acromat, apo, Newtonian and SCT I would say the apo is best visually with a Newtonian a very close second. With an acro you could probably get a fringe killer filter to help with the chromatic abberation.

I'd also swap your choice of diagonal and eyepiece as you can get better or just as good for cheaper. If you're set on a 2" diagonal I found the Altair dielectric very crisp, I bought it thinking it will be future proof for 2" eyepieces, but I've never bought one or felt the need to. Hence stick with a 1.25" and save money in the process with your eyepieces. The WO dielectric diagonal is also good. For plossls the bst starguider eyepieces are decent, the lower power televues (high power I find the glass too small), the ES range, vixen npl and celestron Xcel LX are also good. You can get a 30mm, 20mm and a 2x Barlow lens which will make your eyepieces 15mm and 10mm, it's all you need to start.

Oh and get a Rigel Quikfinder or a telrad, a red dot doesn't compare.

Edited by Elp
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Starfield refractor on an AZ 4 will be a grand. Leaving 200 ish for a diagonal and a Finder and a full set of Starguider eyepieces and some filters will keep you going for years for 2 grand. You should have change left over too

Edited by Carl Au
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I am another thumbs up for the Starfield. The CA on it is minuscule even at relatively high magnification. I also am a fan of Dobsonians but have to admit that they are not for taking on hikes. With you living in an international dark sky site, it’s bordering on criminal not to take full advantage of it with a large aperture dobsonian. Oh well, if you’re not to be swayed from a refractor then I’d go for the Starfield. 

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