iOptron Smartstar-E-R80
Page 2
All Assembled!
Assembly and Set Up

Not a whole lot to say about this. Like many products, the assembly directions leave something to be desired - after all, they are not written by native English-speakers; so a times, some things tend to get lost in translation. In any event, the picture on the box in conjunction with the instructions led to a pretty straight-forward assembly process.

I decided to go ahead and set up the controller before heading outdoors. If you follow the instructions, you shouldn't have too much trouble - just be sure that when you enter the time of day, use 24-hour clock notation.
Use of GOTO Mount and Telescope

After a bit of trial and error, I discovered a couple of things. The first is that time spent in pointing the "South" reference on the mount accurately to the South is well spent; as is time spent in leveling the mount. The closer to being accurate that these two alignments are, the better the GOTO operation of the mount will work. This is particularly true if you use the single-star alignment rather than the two star alignment process. Once these settings were made accurately, I found that the GOTO operation of the mount was quite good, as is the tracking capability.

There is a bit of "play" in the mount, but this did not seem to have an impact on the ability of the mount to perform adequately.

After performing a careful positioning and leveling of the tripod and mount, and then performing a two-star alignment, I was able to GOTO a pretty long list of objects and have each show up close to centered in the field of view of the 12.5mm eyepiece.

Here's the list of objects I used during a 45-minute observing session (includes set-up, alignment, and break down of the scope and mount): M13, M92, M103, M31, M30, the Moon, M11, M27.  I took a break between M31 and M30 to see how well the mount tracked Andromeda. After 10 minutes, Andromeda was still centered in the eyepiece! Of note is that I performed the 2-star alignment process, using Deneb as the first of the two stars. I do not recall the second star I used... After I was done with the short viewing list above, I performed a GOTO to Deneb; and it was spot-on. Pretty impressive for a $200 GOTO mount and a $110 80mm 'scope.

Early this morning (Nov 17th. 2007 @ 4:45 am), I took the scope out to have a look at Venus, Mars, Saturn and the Orion nebula. I had seen the planets recently with my 6" Criterion Dynascope and wanted to make a comparison between those images and what the new 80mm 'scope was capable of.

Object Clarity

This is the first refractor I have owned, so I have no basis for comparison to any other refractor telescope. I can only tell you that the image quality I see with this new scope is quite good, all things considered. It does not, however, compare to the images that my 6" Dynascope produces - nor would I expect it to. There is a substantial difference between the images that can be produced by an 80mm refractor and that of a 6" f8 Newtonian reflector. But, setting up, using, and then breaking down the smaller 'scope with a GOTO mount takes WAY less time and effort - so I would imagine that I am likely to take advantage of small windows of observing opportunity that I would otherwise miss with the bigger 'scope.

Overall Conclusion

I am more than pleased with the iOptron GOTO base and 80mm refracting telescope. It is a terrific value at $350 shipped (provided that it continues to give good service). The GOTO mount's specifications states that it has the capability to handle an OTA of 7 - 11 lbs. Frankly, I think that this is a bit optomistic. Staying closer to the 7lb end of that scale seems to make more sense to me. Having read other reviews of the mount, I've learned that the internal gearing mechanism consists of plastic/nylon gears. I am no engineer or materials scientist, but my impression is that an 11lb OTA (like my 6" Dynascope) might very well be too heavy for the mount to contend with. iOptron is apparently preparing to market
a larger GOTO mount (an equatorial one) that claims a capacity of 35 lbs. If it offers value anything like "the Cube" does, there may be a second GOTO mount in my future!

Questions/comments are welcome - feel free to email me:
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All content copyright 2007. This page was last updated on Nov 17, 2007.