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Explore Scientific ED102

Choosing the right telescope for DSLR astrophotography can make all the difference in the world.  After many hours of research reading reviews, testimonials and technical specs, I decided to upgrade to the Explore Scientific ED102 Carbon Fiber F/7 Triplet Apochromatic Refractor.  I hope that this review will help you make your telescope buying decision easier, as I have provided examples of real experience, and real photos captured using this refractor.

 

Explore Scientific ED102 CF

The Explore Scientific ED102 sitting atop my Sky-Watcher HEQ-5

Explore Scientific ED102 CF Review

First things first.  My interests are in deep-sky DSLR astrophotography.  My absolute favorite hobby is to spend a night in the backyard capturing images of nebulae, galaxies and star clusters with my camera.  While the camera is snapping away at my target of choice, I can sit back and relax on a lawn chair and enjoy the beauty of the night sky with a pair of binoculars.  I thoroughly enjoy the process of acquiring the images, as well as all of the effort needed afterward to produce the final image.  For this, I require a high-quality telescope that could produce sharp, high-contrast photographs on a regular basis.

This telescope is an excellent choice for anyone interested in capturing high-quality deep-sky DSLR astrophotography images.

 

Example of DSLR astrophotography with the Explore Scientific ED102 CF

The Lagoon Nebula – taken using the Explore Scientific ED102

 

I purchased the ED 102 in May 2016.  I made a post about how excited I was about my latest equipment upgrade and wasted no time putting my new telescope to work.  My previous telescope was the Explore Scientific ED80, another “Triplet APO”, but in a smaller size.  The ED80 holds a special place in my heart because it was my first real astrophotography telescope, and I photographed more than 50 deep-sky objects with it.  Needless to say, I was a satisfied customer with products from Explore Scientific.

 

Upgrading to the ED102 from the ED80 was an easy decision, as my loyalty to Explore Scientific was earned over 5 years worth of imaging experience.

 

Explore Scientific ED102 TripletTelescope Specifications

Focal Length: 714mm
Focal Ratio: f/7
Resolution: 1.14 arcsec
Diameter: 120mm
Weight: 7 lbs
Dovetail: Vixen

 

 

My experience using this telescope

Light weight and solid

Because of its carbon fiber construction, the ED102 is extremely lightweight considering it’s size and the glass involved in the construction of high-quality refractors.  The telescope requires only a single counterweight on the opposite end of my Sky-Watcher HEQ-5.  This balancing act includes the weight of my Orion Mini 50mm Guide Telescope, Meade DSI Pro II CCD Guiding Camera, and my Canon 450D Xsi with the additional battery grip.  Compare that to the weight of my massive 8″ Orion Astrograph Reflector which uses 2.5 counterweights at the very end of the counterweight shaft.

The Sky-Watcher HEQ-5 Equatorial Mount handles this lightweight refractor with ease, creating a rock-solid, smooth ride.  Slewing and imaging with this combo is tight and secure.

 

2″ Dual-Speed Focuser

The 2″ dual-speed Crayford-style focuser works with a level of precision I became accustomed to after using the ED80.  The focuser tube includes lots of travel and includes a calibrated scale.  This is especially useful for astrophotographers, as I can quickly adjust my focus to a previous nights imaging session, and then fine-tune using BackyardEOS.  The adjustment screws underneath the tube allow me to control the tension of the focuser and lock the tube into place.

Carry case and Diagonal

The current package for this telescope on the Explore Scientific website includes a solid padded aluminum carrying case.  This is great for traveling with the scope to a star-party or public event.  The included diagonal comes in extremely handy when performing the star alignment process at the beginning of my imaging session.  It provides a comfortable angle for visual observing as well, as you can rotate it in the focuser tube to find the perfect position for your height and viewing angle.  When my DSLR is attached to the telescope, it is connected directly to the focuser tube as the diagonal is not needed for astrophotography.

Cradle and Dovetail

The ED102 comes with an adjustable cradle with a vixen-style dovetail mount.  By unlocking the telescope from the cradle, you can safely and securely slide the ED102 up or down to find the perfect balance for your equipment.  The handle also includes a cut-out to attach additional pieces of equipment such as a guide scope, finder or camera.  I currently use the finder scope tube rings to hold my autoguiding system.

 

Basic Astrophotography Setup

My current setup for DSLR deep-sky astrophotography

 

Retractable Dew Sheild

The ED102 includes a built-in retractable dew shield, which blocks out stray light as well as protects the objective lens from moisture.  With a twist, the dew shield locks into place securely and stays put.  The overall build quality of this instrument is evident in this element of the telescope.

 

The built-in retractable dew shield is a simple example of the overall build-quality and attention to detail that went into the construction of this telescope.  The dew shield easily locks into place and does a great job protecting the high-quality ED glass objective.

 

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

I look forward to each and every time I get to put this telescope to use.  At the end of the day, the results this telescope produces in the way of astrophotography images is the real measure of its capabilities.  I should note that I use the William Optics Field Flat III flattener/reducer when connecting my Canon 450D to this instrument.  This further “flattens” the field of view in my images and reduces the telescope’s focal length to approximately 570mm.  (0.8 X 714mm)  The main reason I use this is simply because it is my only 2″ T-adapter for my DSLR, it is not required to produce flat images with a DSLR camera.

The team at Explore Scientific is great to deal with.  The communication and customer support I have received have made a lasting impression on me.  I can highly recommend the Explore Scientific ED102 CF to astrophotographers and visual observers looking for a high-quality telescope that will deliver years of enjoyment.  I hope that you found this review helpful in some way and that you learned a little more about this specific telescope.

 

M20 - The Trifid Nebula

The Trifid Nebula – Photo using the Explore Scientific ED102 Triplet