Bushnell Voyager 4.5



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Date: 10/8/2001
Price: $150.00
Design: 4.5-inch Reflector, 400mm focal length, f/4.4 (Edmund Astroscan Clone)
Description: 1 1/4” eyepieces (27mm Plossl, 5mm Ramsden), shoulder strap, “tripod”.

The Review

Why I Bought This

I began to get into astronomy (again!) a few months ago when my sister dragged out my father’s thirty year old Sears 60mm telescope. While she gave up after a night, I continued every time there was a clear sky, and began searching the stars. After I discovered M51 through this scope (which was, truthfully, nothing more than a barely visible blurry dot-- but hey, it’s a whole other galaxy!) I began yearning for something a little better than the department store variety telescope. Living in southeatern Wisconsin in a big city means that light pollution is a problem, and so I can use the best light bucket I can buy to pick up all the objects I can. Initially I was going to go for another refractor (a 80 or 90mm) but when I found the Bushnell Voyager for $150 and with a 4.5” aperture, I decided to give it a try despite Bushnell’s track record for cheap scopes.

As usual, after I got the ‘scope it rained for a week.

The Telescope

Stuck inside for a week, I quickly got acquainted with my Bushnell. It is a small, very light (11 lbs.) ‘scope that is highly portable. It has a ball and socket design: the bottom of the ‘scope is the ball, and the small ‘tripod’ is the socket, and the design gives the Voyager a high degree of maneuverability (but also has it’s downsides to be explained later). The eye pieces are 1 1/4” (I’m grateful to see Bushnell is beginning to use better quality optics), the 27mm being a Plossl and 5mm being a cheapo Ramsden. The Plossl brings in a lot of light and allows you to many more stars than you can with the naked eye in the city, but is really no better than a pair of binoculars (estimated mag. 15x), and the Ramsden gives decent views, but a better qualified astonomer might say otherwise (remember, I was weaned off of department store optics). I am happy to say that the ‘scope was perfectly collimated right out of the box. The ‘scope allows the user to collimate the secondary mirror, but the primary mirror is fixed in position at the factory, which eliminates some of the upkeep that comes with Newtonians. There is a shoulder strap that can be attached to the ‘scope that allows you to carry it anywhere you want.

The Performance

The ‘scope definitely brings in a lot of light. Looking through the eyepiece gives you a view of dozens of stars, much more than can be seen with the naked eye in a city. They are all very sharp and crisp, although some of this crispness is lost with the Ramsden (no surprise there). Double stars are particularly spectacular and brilliant (at least in my opinion) with their sometimes constrasting colors appearing vibrantly through the Plossl and the Ramsden.

The Moon is well received, too. The Ramsden has a bit of a problem focusing properly (even at best focus everything looks a bit... off), but the Plossl gives very detailed views of the various maria and craters, and you can see the splash marks extending out from Tycho rather clearly, too. In fact, I took several pictures of the Moon with the Plossl eyepiece. Although they turned out blurry and gave me a red Moon (which reminds me of the song “Bad Moon Rising”), I’m surprised they turned out as well as they did.

The only thing the Plossl can’t really do well is look at planets. I wasn’t sure if that red dot was Mars or simply a red giant star-- the astigmatism surrounding the planet is pretty bad, and makes it look like a star. The Ramsden manages to resolve it into a tiny red disc, but there is still a faint halo effect surrounding it. I have yet to see Jupiter or Saturn, so I’m afraid I can’t report further on planetary bodies.

The Negatives

WHY can’t I find Jupiter or Saturn? Simple: the ball-and-socket design, while a seemingly brilliant idea for easy use of the ‘scope, is incredibly frustrating to use. You have to move the entire ‘scope with your hands, and obviously your own self can never be as precise as slow motion controls on a equatorial mounted telescope, which I was use to up until this point. The first few nights made it difficult to find anything (Hell, it took me a couple of minutes to find the Moon!) and would probably turn off an amateur rather quickly.

Compounding that fact was the lack of a finderscope. It is extremely difficult to find anything without one, especially if your like me and can’t tell a magnitude 2 star for a magnitude 5. At least with the finderscope you can usually find key stars quickly; without it, it’s just a guess (is that Albireo or Altair?). I finally stole the finderscope from my father’s Sears ‘scope and strapped it onto the Voyager. Even then it’s not perfect, but at least I find things quicker. What makes mounting a finderscope difficult is the massive ball at the bottom of the Voyager; I have heard there are special finderscopes that are used on the Edmund Astroscan that deal with this problem; possibly they might work on the Voyager, but I can’t be sure.

Barlow lenses don’t seem to work with it. I bought a Meade short barlow, and not only are the eyepieces a difficult fit, the ‘scope cannot focus with the barlow attached.

Bushnell also advertises this ‘scope as good for astrophotography, and even sells a seperate camera adapter. However, I can’t see how this thing can be used on anything other than the Moon. Without a standard tripod mount you would have to track objects using your hands, rather than precision clock drives. It would be impossible to get any good pictures of planets or stars or anything else worth the roll of film and your time. Shame on you, Bushnell.

The Conclusion

Despite the drawbacks of the Voyager (and don’t get me wrong, they aren’t just trivial things), I still like it. It’s like the Jeep of telescopes. It needs minimal maintenance, is very sturdy, is lightweight, and can be taken anywhere in almost any environment. It needs no time to set up and dismantle, making it a huge draw for people who just want to toss a telescope in the back of their car and drive into the woods to check out the night sky without the hassle. For the price it’s not a bad deal; then again, for the price you’re not going to find many Hubble-beating telescopes-- but you will find few others with the same light gathering capabilities and portability the Bushnell Voyager affords.

Submitted by Tristan Kloss - Jdikght@aol.com - USA

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