Spotting Scope for Grab-and-Go

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Spotting Scope for Grab-and-Go

Postby steve-fung » Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:05 pm

Here’s my new scope. Over the years, I’ve been hunting for a small, rugged, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive grab-and-go scope that I could take onto an airplane, camping and hiking trips. My grab-and-go refractor at home is a Stellarvue SVR90T, which is a great apochromatic refractor for both visual and astrophotography use. It has exceptional optics and solid mechanics, but it is rather expensive, and at 10 lbs and 20” long, it is not the most portable scope to carry in a backpack. I also have a Stellarvue SV60EDS, which is a compact and lightweight little scope at 3 lbs and 8.5” long, great for looking at the moon and bright DSOs, but I have found details lacking because of limited objective.
More recently, I came across the Cloudy Nights article, The Celestron C80 ‘Regal’ Spotting Scope and Why, which stimulated my interest, so I started to do some research. The Celestron Regal M2 ED spotting scopes come in three objective lens sizes – 65 mm, 80 mm, and 100 mm. They use XLT-coated ED glass in a lightweight, waterproof, and nitrogen-filled magnesium alloy body with rubber coating, and have the ability to accept 1.25” eyepieces. Best of all, they are relatively inexpensive (less than $1000). I wanted this for my upcoming trip to Big Sur, so I took the plunge and purchased a Celestron Regal M2 100ED, which was on sale from B&H for $720.

I selected the 100 mm version since I wanted a scope that could provide comparable views to my SVR90T. The Celestron Regal M2 100ED is a f/5.4, 540 mm focal length scope that weighs 4.5 lbs and is 19” long. The scope was delivered last Friday, but of course it was raining. On Saturday night, the skies finally cleared up, so I did some star test after mounting the scope on a Manfrotto tripod with 410 geared head. With the OEM 8-24 mm zoom eyepiece (22-67x magnification), views were sharp with little chromatic aberration at low-medium magnifications but became softer at higher magnifications. I could easily pick out Jupiter with a few bands across its disc. Venus was too bright, but I could pick out its half-disc. I bought the scope for viewing DSOs, but views were not optimal that night. Next, I swapped out the OEM 8-24 mm zoom eyepiece for my Baader Hyperion eyepieces, all of which focused sharply at infinity and provided larger FOVs than the OEM zoom eyepiece. However, if I placed a 2” filter such as my UHC-S behind the first lens group, none of the eyepieces would focus at infinity. The Baader 8-24 mm Mark III zoom also could not focus at infinity. It turns out this is a known drawback because of limited back focus of the scope, so only eyepieces with a short nosepiece and field lens close to the nosepiece will focus at infinity (Celestron Article 2329).

I purchased the scope mostly for visual use, looking at scenery, animals, and birds during the day and wide-field astronomy for DSOs at night when paired with my Baader Hyperion 21 mm eyepiece (25x magnification). However, the scope does come with a T-adapter ring that can be placed on the end of the OEM 8-24 mm zoom eyepiece for eyepiece projection. I have enclosed some sample pictures with the eyepiece projection setup. These were taken with a sturdy camera tripod – no tracking equatorial mount for true grab-and-go experience. There was peripheral distortion and vignetting with low magnification, which mostly goes away with medium-high magnification. The image of Jupiter was stacked from a quick 30 sec video, although I would not typically image planets with this scope. Seeing was not great, but visually, Jupiter and its moons were better defined and more detailed than that shown in the captured image.

Pros:
1. Rugged, waterproof, and lightweight grab-and-go scope (4.5 lbs, 19” long for 100ED version).
2. Good multi-coated optics with sharp views and little chromatic aberration.
3. Can use 1.25” eyepieces, which provide sharper and larger FOV views.
4. Can be coupled to DSLR for eyepiece projection imaging.
5. Inexpensive (less than $1000).

Cons:
1. Cannot achieve focus at infinity with some 1.25” eyepieces.
2. Aiming at night can be difficult without a finder.

IMG_2756_sm.jpg

EP_test_sm.jpg

Jupiter_test.jpg
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Re: Spotting Scope for Grab-and-Go

Postby henryv1598 » Wed May 06, 2015 10:21 am

Looks like a nice toy!

I use a vintage Brandon Vernonscope for grab-and-go. It's actually a re-branded Lumicon Superfinder. it's an 80 mm with a focal length of 300 mm (F/3.75). I usually keep my Meade 26mm in it which gives me 11.5x or 23.1x with a 2x barlow. With my Meade 5.5mm I get 54.5x/109.1x. It attaches to photo tripod in seconds and I have rings for using it with my main scope rig. I keep it in a plastic storage container with a handle and can have it up and running in about 2-3 minutes.

Great little scope.
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Re: Spotting Scope for Grab-and-Go

Postby steve-fung » Thu May 07, 2015 12:08 am

Yes, that's much like the Stellarvue 60 mm f/3.75 straight-through finder scope that I have, which weighs 1.4 lbs. It takes 2" eyepieces, and I get great views with my 36 mm 72-deg (6.3x) and 21 mm 68-deg (10.7x) eyepieces. There is an 80 mm f/3.75 version, which weighs 2.2 lbs. I think these are also called "Sparrow Hawk" by their owners and can be used as a miniature travel scope, which was one of my reasons for buying the scope. However, they're not ED apochromats like my other Stellarvue SV60EDS and Celestron Regal M2 100ED. The 100ED is a bit on the bulky side - maybe I should have gotten the 80ED version, but I settled for the one with the larger aperture for more light gathering.
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Re: Spotting Scope for Grab-and-Go

Postby steve-munsey » Thu May 07, 2015 9:58 am

Thanks for the write up!!!!
For people who can't afford a Televue as a grab & go this might be an alternative to look into.
Edmund Scientific Super Space Conqueror 6" f8 Newtonian Reflector
Software Bisque Paramount MX
Celestron C-11 Schmidt Cass.
Planetary, Lunar, Solar, Deep Sky
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Re: Spotting Scope for Grab-and-Go

Postby steve-fung » Sat May 23, 2015 3:20 pm

UPDATE: I recently purchased a new Manfrotto video head (MVH502AH) to replace the gear head (410) on my 055XPROB tripod. My girls find it more intuitive to use than the gear head, making them want to use the telescope more, which is what I want. Its counterbalance and pan/tilt drag friction control allows smooth gliding action while dampening vibration upon reaching a destination in the sky. I found this setup more portable than my other Alt-Az mount (Vixen Porta II), which I have hard time fitting into airline luggage. The mounting plate on the video head uses standard 1/4"-20 (or 3/8"-16) screw for securing, which works for cameras and the spotting scope, but not for telescopes with a dovetail bar. In such case, I plan to use an ADM DVPA dovetail adapter modified for the TeleVue Gibraltar mount, which accepts 1/4"-20 screw for securing.
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