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Orion Starmax 127mm EQ

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Date: 9-6-2001
Price: approx $500.00
Design: Small Maksutov telescope that is very portable
Description: 127mm Maksutov telescope fitted to a 'large' EQ mount.

Review

I have been around a long time. My interest in astronomy and specifically in telescope optics started when I was about 8 years old. My first 'telescope' was a small all plastic 'surprise' that came in (I think) a box of Cheerios. With it, I could see just a little LESS than I could with the naked eye - I was hooked. 

That was well over 40 years ago. Through the years I have continued a casual interest in observing with a stronger interest in the optics themselves. I have owned and built many telescopes since then. Most of my early years were spent in anticipation of what might lie ahead both visually and optically. 

Without going further into an ancient history lesson, let me just say that these days I have reduced my inventory of scopes to a select few - the newest addition is an 5" Maksutov on an Equatorial mount from the California based 'Orion Telescopes and Binoculars' (Oriontel.com). I have purchased quite a few items from them (and others) over the years either through mail order or directly thru one of their dealers here in Colorado (S&S Optika). They carry a fine line of products and have a very liberal return policy. I purchased this particular scope from S&S. I was immediately taken in by the prospect of a relatively large Maksutov with EQ mount for just over $500. 

First impressions were very positive. I really liked the burgundy metal flake paint job on the optical tube, the correct image finder on a nicely extended dovetail mount and the attractive EQ-3 equatorial mount.. First impressions aside, I will tell you that I picked the best of 3 units.Two had what I would call better than average optics, perhaps a real world 1/4 wavefront. Their figures were very smooth and gave nice airy disks. In this day of claims of 1/27 wave optics this may not seem very good, but much of what you see in the real world is in fact closer to the 1/4 wavefront (or less). The focusers on these two units , while smooth, 
required about 1/3 rd to1/4 turn of the knob before any change occurred, a bit loose but not unacceptable. There was no apparent image shift in any of the units I looked at. Since I am quite good at testing optics in the daytime, even given copious amounts of heat wave distortion, I immediately latched onto the third unit. It has optics that are just about perfect and I don't use the term loosely. Being just a touch (about 2 arc minutes) out of alignment, I went ahead and used the oddly executed but effective push pull Allen headed screws at the back of the unit to align it - right on the money. I also relined the primary and secondary baffle tubes to further increase contrast. The result is an optical system to which I have rarely been privileged to see. When the scope has cooled down completely, it is very difficult to see any difference in the intra/extra focal diffraction patterns. Stars in focus at high (300x) powers present a nicely formed (hard) airy disk. The quadruple star Epsilon Lyrae separates beautifully with that 'diamond' on velvet look. It also goes without saying that the images are 'apochromatic' - very close to perfect color correction with excellent balance and hue. 

The EQ mount is smooth and a nice match for this tube assembly. I would of course like to have something even sturdier like a Losmandy GM-8 but, realistically, for the money it is great. I have the single axis drive on order which will be a nice addition for high power use. The polar axis finder makes it a snap to get a quick alignment that is accurate enough for all visual observing and the r/a and dec. flex cables are just about the right length for convenient centering. The finder makes this job quite easy. It is a correct image (upright,not mirror reversed) unit on a relatively tall mount which connects quickly to the main tube assembly via a dovetail plate. It has a nice field of view and can itself be aligned to the main tube quickly and easily using its innovative spring loaded alignment screws. In the daytime, this scope makes a wonderful spotting scope. I have substituted the original diagonal and eyepiece (which were fine) for a Tele-Vue 1.25" Everbrite and 35mm Celestron Ultima. This combination gives terrific ,bright, sharp views and is a perfect match for daytime use. All in all, as you can tell, I am extremely happy with this scope. Any of the three units tested represent a good value, but , of course, it pays to know how to evaluate optics ,especially if you are lucky enough to be able to choose among several from the dealers stock. If you have an interest in learning more about practical evaluation of optics get a copy of Richard Suiters book 'Star Testing Astronomical Telescopes' - just keep in mind that even this simple technique requires a good deal of practice before anything close to an accurate interpretation of the optical system at hand can be achieved. 

In summation ,I rate the first two as a solid 'B' optically and C+ mechanically ( a good rating for this price category), the last one gets an optical 'A+'. in its category   (Compound / catadioptric). 

Submitted by Herb Teeuwe - USA

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