Helios or Sky-Watcher vs Celestron or Meade telescopes
As a newcomer to astronomy, I was wondering what your opinion was of the cheaper range of telescopes especially those by Helios and Sky-Watcher? Are they very much inferior to more expensive products by manufacturers such as Celestron and Meade?

Helios or Sky-Watcher telescopes are Chinese made, and are identical to the Celestron or Meade instruments, which at the mass end of the market are also largely Chinese-made by Synta. The Synta 150 mm refractor has received good reviews, and I have now tested a few Sky-Watcher instruments and found them to be excellent value for money, though not necessarily perfect in every way. Many Sky-Watcher telescopes are sold through Orion Telescopes and Binoculars in the US, though Sky-Watcher is based in Canada and has importers in other countries.

From my experience, the Chinese-made instruments are a bit flimsy, but while 20 years ago Far Eastern mass-made optics were of dire quality, these days they are fairly good and in some cases excellent.

I've now received the following report from a reader of this site named Simon, as follows (slightly edited):

The Helios Explorer 200 [now Sky-Watcher] comes equipped with two Plössl eyepieces a 20 mm and a 10 mm and a 2x Barlow. I myself went for the deal with a third eyepiece, the 6.3 mm.

It comes on the EQ5 mount and an aluminium tripod. The first thing that needs to be done is to strip down the EQ5 mount and clean it and give the workings a good coat of better quality synthetic grease. This improves the mount tenfold. A good guide for this can be found on www.astronomyboy.com

 The tripod needs some additional weight, as it is not quite up to the job of keeping the scope, the heavy mount and counterweights steady all of the time.  I used gun cartridge shot to firm up the tripod, by filling the hollow legs. OK, this makes moving the tripod a little more strenuous, but it is worth the extra effort.

 The eyepieces are of good quality and an improvement over the ones supplied with the Helios Explorer 114.  The focuser is a little stiff and gritty, but this again was remedied by stripping, cleaning and greasing.

As for the mirror itself, I have find it gives some of the better images I have experienced in a scope of this price and size.  The mirror did need collimating on arrival, but this is true of most reflectors after transport from the factory. It is also worth going over the whole scope and checking for loose nuts and bolts, as mine arrived with one of the mirror clamp bolts rattling round inside the tube. Luckily for me it had not made contact with the mirror and was easy enough to put back and secure.

All in all, I would recommend this scope for any amateur wanting their first big scope with a limited budget.

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