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Antares 812G 120mm Refractor

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Date: 8-24-2001
Price: $1200
Design: 120mm refractor operating at f/8.3
Description: Antares 812GP 120 mm refractor including the following:  8 X 50 dovetail finder bracket only, 2" focuser with Antares 2" diagonal, 50 mm 2" Antares Erfle eyepiece, dual axis drives with controller, CG5 mount, Nature Watch oak tripod, plus shipping from Ontario, Canada to Vancouver, WA, USA.

The Review

After a long hiatus from the hobby, I have been observing steadily for the past 11 years, first with my childhood 60mm refractor, then with a 6" Celestron reflector, then with 12.5" Orion Premium Deep Space Explorer, now with my new refractor.  I visit truly dark skies 2 - 4 times per year, culminating in the just completed Oregon Star Party where skies were superb Thursday through Saturday nights.  I have owned my 12.5" for 7 years and have found it to be a very good deep sky performer.  About 6 months ago, I decided to purchase a refractor after viewing through my friend's 5" Astrophysics.   Star images were pinpoint and planetary views were awesome.  The hunt was on for a new telescope!

I knew that I was not up to the price range of an Astrophysics, or Tak or any other high priced, high quality scope.  I felt I would have a total budget of about $1,000, but was able to increase that to $1200.  Many friends tried to convince me to buy the more expensive models, but my budget would not allow it.  I read magazine reviews, pored over Internet telescope review sites and drove a few dealers nuts with my questions. Initially I was most attracted to the Orion Astroview 120 and the Celestron CR150 and researched those diligently.  I finally eliminated the Celestron due to size (too big), optic flaws, and flimsy mount.  I then eliminated the Orion due to flimsy mount and false color. Hmmmm.  Now what?  I reread the Sky and Telescope review of the Celestron and the Orion and learned something I overlooked.  Sky and Tel tried mounting the Orion on the CG5 that the Celestron comes on and found that to be a very stable combination.  I also learned that variations of the Orion are sold in Canada with the CG5 mount.  No clue as to where I might look!

Back to the Internet.  I found several Canadian dealers that sold these scopes.  I then discovered they are sold under various names, all manufactured by Synta.  After more research, I discovered Naturewatch in Ontario.  Lloyd was very helpful.  We emailed and spoke on the phone several times over the course of 4 - 5 months; he answered all my questions patiently and I finally settled on the model described above. The stated advantages of this model are:  solid oak tripod rather than flimsy aluminum legs, CG5 mount rather than Orion's EQ3, 2" diagonal, Japanese made optics from the same factory that makes Vixen optics,

Now for my review.  The scope arrived in two long boxes, with the drives arriving in a third smaller box about a week later.  Packing was more than adequate, with no damage to any components. Directions were adequate and the scope went together quickly. When the drives arrived about a week later, they too came in perfect condition and took about 45 minutes to install (would have been quicker if I had mounted drives before).  I'll skip over my city viewing experiences and go directly to the views I saw at the Oregon Star Party.

Positives

1.  This scope delivers incredibly sharp images.  The double double in Lyra were cleanly split with pinpoint stars.  Saturn was very sharp, with the Cassini division visible around the whole planet and shadowing on the back side.  Mars was experiencing a large scale dust storm and no detail was visible.  I did not stay up late enough to get a truly good look at Jupiter; the view was only fair due to Jupiter's low point on the horizon.  I was able to observe to the limit of my eyepieces plus Barlow - 270 X with a TeleVue Big Barlow and 1.25" TeleVue 7.4 mm Plossl.  No breakdown of the image was
experienced.

2.  Mars was the ONLY object showing any false color.  The Sirius Optics Minus Violet filter completely eliminates that false color. There was NO false color on Jupiter, Saturn or any bright stars.  When the moon and clear weather come back, that could change.  I have read of false color on the Chinese optics Syntas, so I conclude one of two things:  the Japanese optics truly are superior to Chinese variety; or I was fortunate to receive an exceptionally good sample.  I believe both possibilities have some degree of truth.  Deep sky views were as expected from a scope of this size.  Even though I took the time to view some Messiers,  I bought this for planets and multiple star systems.

3.  The mount and tripod are very stable.  A modest wind does not disturb my view and vibrations from focusing damp down in 1 -2  seconds.

4.  The dual axis motor drive does an excellent job of keeping an object in view, even after 15 minutes away from my scope.

5.  Polar alignment was a snap using the included polar alignment scope.


Negatives

1.  The tripod is not well designed.  It DOES keep the OTA very stable, but adjusting the leg length from minimum to maximum is very time consuming.

2.  As described in many other reviews, the mount and focuser are very stiff and will benefit from cleaning, deburring, and new grease as described at www.astronomyboy.com.  That will be a winter project for me.

3.  The drives have a top slewing speed of 8X; should be much faster.

4.  The supplied 52mm Erfle is only of average quality.  Field of view is around 40 degrees  and stars of average viewing quality.

Summary

This scope is an incredible value.  The optics compared favorably with my friends Astrophysics up to the limit of my eyepieces. Seeing literally no false color is a great bonus.  The mount is solid and fits this scope perfectly.  Lloyd at Naturewatch worked with me very closely to insure my total cost would not exceed $1200.  He builds the oak legs and although they are troublesome, they work well and contribute to high stability.

Submitted by - Larry Froberg - Lfroboz@cs.com - Vancouver, WA

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