Orion Astroview 120 ST
Observing history and
I’ve been an avid amateur astronomer
for about ten years, with my main focus of study being the moon, the
planets and DSO’s. I’ve had a variety of scopes from a wide range of
binoculars and reflectors and I now have an 8” SCT. I’m more of a
general interest observer. If I am short on time I’ll just check out the
moon if its out or the planets at that time. Perhaps a few of my favorite
DSO’s like M42 or M31. If I do have more time, I’ll go through the
Messier list as much as I can or I’ll take more time with the moon and
It should be noted that I live in
north central Wisconsin. The upper Midwest is known for poor seeing
conditions most of the time, though we do occasionally get some excellent
nights. All observations made thus far were early in the night where all
objects were close to the horizon and the seeing conditions were rather
poor (perhaps a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1 to 10). Not a particularly prime
observing environment. I am used to conditions like this, so its all that
more important that I observe with the best I can get for my money.
Reasons for choosing
the Astroview 120ST
As much as I love my Meade
8” LX50, I can’t use it as much anymore as I have less time now with
three kids and 2 jobs in addition to having a bad back. Those factors led
me to finding a low cost, easily portable scope that I could take out at a
moments notice with little or no setup time.
My options were limited to price,
size/weight, ease of setup and versatility. Since I still have my SCT
(that at some point will go into a small permanent observatory) getting a
smaller SCT was not what I was after. Nor did I want to go the route of a
reflector. I started looking into short tube, rich field refractors. The
APO’s looked great but way too pricey. I looked at other low cost
alternatives…but most of the achromats of any kind all had the chromatic
aberration caveat. Together with a ton of reviews and a few good
recommendations from some fellow stargazers, I purchased an Astroview
120ST from Orion Telescopes, www.telescope.com.
I had some reservations about this purchase as most complained of terrible
high power views. I expected that (as well they should have) for this
short focal length achromat. But Orion has a great customer service
department, so I was not concerned if this was not quite up to my
The Astroview 120ST is a 600mm, f/5
short tube refractor, with a 4.7”, multi-coated objective lens that is
meant for wide field viewing, not planetary or moon detail. Orion clearly
states its use as such. But from my first times out, I have been able to
really push the magnification on the moon, Jupiter and Saturn, revealing
an extreme amount of detail for this type of scope.
It is lightweight at only 9 lbs and only 24 1/2” long so it its
size is perfect for me. I can leave it on the mount and carry the whole
thing out side and start observing immediately, which is important because
I have such limited time and sometimes I can’t haul out my SCT. Also
because of its size, I can now take it with me wherever I go as the whole
setup fits easily into any size vehicle.
I received my scope from Orion in
5 days with standard ground shipping. It all came in one box, with most
every component packaged in separate boxes within. The scope itself was
only wrapped with tissue paper, with bubble wrap around that. I would have
expected some kind of fitted foam for the scope at least. But everything
was in perfect shape.
The Astroview 120ST is sold as an
OTA only or a package. I purchased the package for $429 (shipped) and it
comes with everything you need to start viewing, which includes a 2”
focuser (for optional 2” accessories), a 1.25” diagonal, 1.25” - 10mm and 25mm Plossl EP’s, 6 X 30 finderscope
with bracket, , tight fitting endcaps, 2 counterweights (about 10 lbs.
total), mounting rings and the Astroview (EQ3?) mount and aluminum
tripod...with a nice accessory tray and a hinged leg stabilizer (which is
nice for quick setup and tear down as the legs fold up quickly without
having to remove anything).
When I first looked at the
scope, I was happily surprised at the solid feel of its construction. The
tube finish was a shiny black with the focuser and lens cell assembly made
of cast aluminum that is painted with a black textured paint (rather than
the black anodized finish of more expensive APO’s). It felt heavier than
I thought 9 lbs. would. I guess at $429 with a mount, I was expecting a
more cheaply made scope, but it is very well made. I also expected a
flimsy, rattling mount. I had owned a few cheaply made EQ mounts in the
past and I thought at this price, the mount would be similar to those. But
I was quite pleased with what is a very solid, beefy mount for this size.
More about the mount later. My first impression of the scope and mount was
that it was substantially better than I imagined.
My first few nights out with the
Astroview 120ST, I could make out Cassini’s division in Saturn and at
least 4 cloud bands on Jupiter as well as gorgeous details on the moon.
I’ve read other’s comments about this scope’s inability to resolve
much detail and that the views “mush out” at anything above 60-80X
magnification (which one would expect from an achromatic refractor of this
length), yet I pushed it to 120X with a 10mm EP and a Barlow and it still
maintained very sharp images. The views seemed no different with my Meade
26mm & 10mm Super Plossls than with the supplied Orion 25mm & 10mm
Sirius Plossls. The Barlow is Orion’s 2X APO shorty.
On star tests, there is a bit of
flaring, both in and out of focus, but only at the edge of field. Stars
when in focus are perfectly round points of light. The field of view is
very wide indeed. With the supplied 25mm EP, this scope engulfs all three
stars of Orion’s belt in the same FOV. Even the Great Orion Nebula was
still quite sharp at 120X and very bright and clean, with the 4 stars of
the trapezium clearly defined. Chromatic aberration is minimal. It is
vaguely noticeable on very bright objects such as the moon and
planets…with a hint of either purple or yellow (only at the very fringe
on one side of the object, or the other, depending on how you move about
the EP). There is no other discernable coloration of objects…no purple
or blue tones with anything. Aside from the fringe color, I get the same
colors as my SCT.
In comparison to my Meade 8” LX50
SCT the Astroview has sharper optics and more contrast. My SCT has perfect
collimation and beautiful views…and of course a larger aperture so it
should resolve more detail, but in side by side comparisons the
Astroview’s optics reveal crisper and more defined views at about the
same magnification. I’m sure at higher magnifications my SCT will remain
sharper, whereas the Astroview’s short focal length will start degrading
the view, though I have not had a chance to test it at higher than 120X.
Others who own the Astroview 120ST report to me that on nights of good
seeing that they have been able to push the magnification up to 240X and
still maintain crisp views, but I have no way of authenticating it.
The 2” focuser has a 1.25”
adapter. The focuser is solid and smooth. Achieving focus is a snap and
the focuser holds the focus, even without the lock down screw tightened.
Focus is very easy to obtain and sharpen and much easier than similar
focusers I’ve had on reflectors.
The supplied 6 X 30 finderscope is all
metal except for the small dew shield. Orion got rave reviews from Sky
& Telescope for their design of the finder bracket’s alignment. It
is so easy to align with only two set screws that push the finder against
a spring loaded pin. At first I thought a 6 X 30 finderscope was a bit
cheap as I am used to the more robust 8 X 50’s, but in reality anything
over 6 X 30 is overkill. The Astroview has such a wide field of view that
one could almost star hop through the scope itself. I think a red-dot
finder would be most appropriate for this wide field scope. The only
complaint I have about the finderscope bracket is the manner in which it
is attached to the scope housing. The dovetail seems to be pointing in the
wrong direction, because if you are viewing overhead and the set screw
loosens, it will slide right out onto the ground!
The mount is called an Astroview, but
it looks just like Orion’s EQ3 mount…which I think is either a CG-4 or
CG-5 knock-off. It is very solid and robust. It moves smoothly, though it
is a little stiff, but there is no sticking anywhere. It may just need
adjusting or like the CG mounts, it needs to be taken apart and cleaned
and regreased. For tracking or astrophotography I will use my SCT and I
may even add a mounting bracket to my SCT’s OTA to mount the Astroview
to it as a guidescope, viewer or wide filed photography platform while on
my SCT. Unless the Astroview mount is adjusted and/or cleaned and
regreased, I wouldn’t add a drive to it as it is a little stiff, though
smooth in operation.
The mount’s setting circles are so
loose (with a lot of play in them), that one could not really use them for
exact location of objects. They seem quite sloppy, cheap and almost an
afterthought. The polar alignment scope that comes supplied with it,
according to the directions, is way too time consuming to bother with,
given that one really wouldn’t want to use this mount as a platform for
astrophotography anyway. I use it more like a more controlled Alt-Az mount
since I use the scope more for quick and easy viewing anyway. The flexible
RA and Dec movement cables work quite nicely for keeping objects in the
FOV. The mount gives you the option of placing them on either side of the
mount for easy access. One thing to keep in mind with this mount is that
the mounting rings bolt directly to the mount. There is no dovetail/saddle
assembly for this mount, although a person could make one easily
The aluminum tripod legs are not very
stable when full extended (as one would expect), but very solid when fully
retracted and overhead views are not really hindered as this is a short
tube…not the monolithic 4
foot long focal length refractor. The height of the mount (at its base)
when the legs are fully extended is 47” and when fully retracted is
26”. I found a happy medium in height versus stability. If the legs are
about halfway extended (which allows for fairly comfortable viewing while
standing) the damping time is around three seconds…which, even at 120X
is no bother…and focusing alone does not make it jitter much, if any.
Only bumping into the scope or tripod makes it jiggle, so overall it is
quite stable. This is the exact same mount that Sky and telescope reviewed
with the Orion StarMax 127 EQ (Mak) in their March 2002 issue.
Overall, I think this scope is greatly underrated for what is capable of. It is not an APO to be sure, but because of the way it performs, it certainly acts more like one than your typical achromat, much less a short tube at that! Still, the mount leaves a lot to be desired for astrophotography, but at the price of this setup one can hardly complain.
Stunning wide field views, even at
higher than recommended powers
Incredibly low price
Mount and scope have a very solid
construction and feel.
Smooth operations of focuser and mount
Fast aligning finderscope
Tight fitting endcaps with lens endcap
having a removable “stop-down” cap
Hinged tripod leg stabilizer
2” focuser to accept any 2”
No false color on objects with a hint of fringe color on bright objects only
Very slight chromatic aberration (this
should really be a PRO as this scope is not an APO)
Cheaper finish on cast aluminum
focuser and lens cell assemblies
Plastic focus knobs and tripod leg
Loose, sloppy RA and DEC setting
Aluminum tripod legs (not unique to
No dovetail/saddle assembly for mount
Finderscope mount attachment to scope
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