Here is the review of this scope that I promised for quite a while ago. Pictures will be uploaded shortly tonight.
Overview straight out-of-the-box experience
This scope was purchased new direct from US after much negotiations. Included inside the box with the scope is the instruction manual and the The Sky CD-Rom (Student edition).
The scope is about 24" long from the dewshield to the focuser end. The dewshield can be removed and that shortens the scope to about 20-21". The weight is a little lighter than the Stellarvue Nighthawk. The Stellarvue C5 case would be a perfect case to contain this scope with the dewshield removed.
The colour of the scope is a metalic gray with typical Syntha finish. The guy who design the tube is obviously a tube maker and not an astronomer because he placed the camera tripod mounting block right at the centre of the tube. Being at the centre it looks balanced, but with eyepieces, diagonals, cameras, at the end, the placement of the mounting block is too far to the front. The mounting block should be a somewhere close to the back for correct balancing.
The diameter of this scope is a bit big for a 80mm scope mainly because it uses the 100mm refractor tube. Guess it make sense to use back the 100mm tube instead of re-designing the tube as it will cost more to make a new mold and stuff.
The main highlight of this scope is of course the crayford focuser. Without rack and pinion, the movement is suppose to be smoother. The crayford made use of a friction plate to hold the focusing tube and you have ball-bearings at the top to guide the focuser tube. Below the focuser tube there is a focus tension knob to tighten the movement of the focuser.
At the end of the focuser, you have a 2"-1.25" adaptor for your 1.25" accessories
Overall, pretty nice looking scope but of typical Syntha quality.
Mechanics and QC
Two problems were immediate. First, the movement of the focuser was a little jerky at the first 1" of movement or so. I opened up the focuser and saw the reason why. The two small screws used to tighten the focuser to the teflon tension plate weren't tighten in a balance way. One was longer than the other one. To correct this, the tension knob has to be removed to access that two little screws. I unscrewed both screws and then re-tighen them again, making sure that each has the same number of turns and were tigthen in a balance manner. Immediately, the focuser was much smoother than before and it was really a joy just to play around with it.
The second problem is much more of a concern. The scope was out of collimation. From what I heard, 8/10 of this scope will be out of collimation from the factory.
To align it back, I have to adjust the focuser. The focuser has to be squared with the lens. This task proved to be so much more time consuming than I thought. In the end, I had to shim the focuser a little in order to achieve perfect collimation.
Beside the two problems above, the rest is wonderful. The optics are clean and has a dark green coating. The lens cell can be unscrewed from the tube, so that makes cleaning easier if necessary. Of course, don't expect the fit and finish like the Taks or APs.
Once you get all this QC problems sorted out, this scope feels like a really expensive scope. Till today, I am still having much fun turning and playing with the buttery smooth focuser.
If you are tired reading by this point and don't wish to read anymore, I will make this section short for you. Just few words.....absolutely wonderful optics for the price.
Star test showed nice identical diffraction rings on both side of focus. I would rate it at least 1/6 wave SA. No zonal problems, and no astig. If Syntha continue to do this for their expected 100mm APO, Tak and AP better get their high price sorted out soon.
Using a 5.2mm Pentax XL (115x) on the moon, the image was dead sharp. Excellent sky background darkness showing wonderful contrast. Even at that magnification, images snap into focus easily. Absolutely colour-free. Users or achromats will really feel short changed by those colour fringing causing softer images after looking through this scope.
On Saturn, Cassini Div and surface banding was obvious at 115X. No doubts about it at all.
For Jupiter, the lack of purple fridge makes the image so much more pleasant and sharp. The image wasn't yellow, but pale white with the normal two reddish eq. belts.
I then brought the magnification up to 230X. That is way above the rated magnification for this scope (150x). At 230X, focusing became slightly more difficult, image was a little softer, but still no purple fringing and contrast and sharpness were still very good. If you keep it at around 200X, this scope would be wonderful performer and will definitely not lose out to any expensive APOs.
However, one area of concern. The focuser did slip a few times with heavy eyepieces at the back when the scope is pointing upwards. Fortunately, the tension knob does it work well here because after I tighten it a little, the focuser stayed in place and no further slips was observed.
All I can say here is that this scope is an absolute great buy for the money. It has some bad mechanics, but none unfixable. Actually I am glad that they didn't spent too much time on the mechanics and spent most of their cost on the optics. The optics is first-class.....and unless you are magnification crazy, this scope should serve you well for most astro objects.
Get one if you have a chance but be prepared for some tinkering work. Once you get the QC sorted out, you truly have a keeper.[/b]
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