Choosing a holiday telescope Ė the Konus Motor 500 Electronic. How easy is it to find objects without a GO TO telescope?
I'm about to buy my first telescope, intended to be used at my holiday house in France, where there is very little light pollution. Portability and weight aren't an issue, as we travel by car. I'm looking to spend up to £300 on a scope, and in this price range, basic reflectors seem to offer the best value. I'd like to be able to do both planetary and deep space observation, and it would be nice although not essential to be able to take some short exposure photos of the planets. I'd be prepared to spend more if I could get reasonable photographic results.
I have seen the Konus Motor 500 Electronic, a short tube 114mm f4.4 reflector with an EQ1 motorised mount, aluminium tripod, 1.25" eyepieces of 20mm and 6mm, 4 x 24 finderscope, on offer at my local camera / telescope shop for £150. Apparently the blurb says it will track objects once found, but I can't see how it would do this automatically as it isn't a GO TO type system.
Alternatively would it be worth paying a little more (£350) for a Meade DS2 114ATS, a 114mmf8.8 reflector, with computerised alt-az mount, aluminium tripod, 1.25" eyepieces of 25mm and 9mm, 6 x 30 finderscope. Ė ChrisYes, I think a reflector would be fine. Try to get the largest aperture you can for the money! I'm not convinced by the specs of the Konus Ė the EQ1 is a tiddler of a mount, and not really much good. They mean that as itís motorised, once you have aligned the equatorial mount on the pole, it will follow objects for a reasonable length of time. You could do planetary photography through it, but on such a small mount vibration would be a major problem.
The Meade is a GO TO, but because it is an alt-az it is suitable for planetary photography only and not long-exposure driven views of the stars (such as by putting the camera piggy-back on top). Optically it should be OK, but donít expect great things from the GO TO mount. On the cheaper instruments (by which I mean anything under about £500) the GO TO sensors are not up to much and I find them more trouble than they are worth.
I am rather boring on this topic, but I always recommend the TAL range of Russian reflectors, as their mounts are much more solid. However, they are less versatile than the Far Eastern scopes (eg Konus and Meade), and require mains power rather than battery power for their motors. I donít think you would be able to get a camera to the prime focus image (not enough focusing range), but for planetary photography you have to use eyepiece projection anyway, so it should be possible to get a focused image. That means that you need an adapter that allows you to put an eyepiece between telescope and camera. Alternatively you could simply point the camera (eg a digital camera) into the eyepiece, maybe using one of the proprietary adapters available, and thus see what you are getting. Few people get successful results using film these days, while the results with digital cameras or even adapted webcams are usually much better.
I note that Orion Optics (http://www.orionoptics.co.uk/main.htm) are selling their Europa 6" reflector on the EQ3 mount for £349. This is not motorised and I donít know how much the motors are but it would be worth a look. I have not looked through one, but it should be a good instrument and streets ahead of the others you mention.
Just one more question Ė if, in order to improve the performance/price ratio, I don't get a GO TO telescope, how much practice and search time is it going to take to be able to locate objects? And if I dispensed with a motor altogether,how difficult is it to track objects once found? Ė Chris
For most objects, itís quite easy to locate objects, particularly in a good dark sky. You just go from one star to another, and learn the sky in the process. And you donít run down the batteries! A good finder is essential, though: the 5 x 24 ones are useless. The 6 x 30 on the TAL and others is OK. Most experienced observers swear by the method anyway.
Following objects is no trouble at all with an equatorial, as you just need to turn one knob, but it gets a bit tedious continually tracking a planet if you are trying to study it and make a drawing. With a motorised equatorial mount you can mount the camera piggy-back and take driven photos of the stars. Probably worth getting, but you can do without (many do). If I had the choice of a smaller telescope with drive or a larger telescope without, I'd go for the larger.
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