Society for Popular Astronomy

skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)
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Author:  RMSteele [ Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:51 am ]
Post subject:  skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

Hello everyone, just thought I'd start an ongoing review of this 102mm goto MAK. I bought it new from Green Witch recently, together with a skywatcher 32mm plossl eyepiece (it already comes with 25mm and 10mm Plossls, plus a x2 Barlow. They gave me a 5% discount for being a SPA member, so the whole package cost £314.44. I would add that without the 32mm plossl the telescope package would have been about £285 with SPA discount.

Why did I choose this scope? I want a travel scope to take abroad. My son lives in Australia and I'm taking it there to scan the far southern skies.

What's the specification? A 102mm aperture maksutov, focal length 1300mm (F12.75), tube length 32cm with covers and no diagonal/eyepiece fitted. Weight fully assembled with 6x30 finder, star diagonal, eyepiece, goto altazimuth mount, steel tripod and 8 AA batteries is a little over 7 kg. So it's easily absorbed in a transcontinental luggage allowance of typically 20-25kg (with the optical tube assembly going in my hand luggage of course; and the folded-down tripod just fits our largest luggage). The 32mm Plossl gives x40, the 25mm x52, the 10mm x130 and the Barlow of course doubles these magnifications).

There, that's the boring stuff over with - got to take the wife swimming now, so I'll share the first sky test results with you when we get back.
Kind thoughts to all, Bob

Author:  David Frydman [ Thu Jul 21, 2016 12:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

Hi Bob,
Enjoy the new scope.
My only thoughts are to protect the tube and optics well on your journey, as the Mak is probably not as robust as a refractor.
Maybe it has a foam insert carry case.
I have some Maks and like them.


Author:  RMSteele [ Thu Jul 21, 2016 2:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

Thanks David - no carry case but plenty bubble wrap! I agree about refractors being robust, as I've carted my old 80mm all over. I posted the next part of the review, but it hasn't appeared yet.
Kind thoughts, Bob

Author:  RMSteele [ Thu Jul 21, 2016 3:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

.....continued. As I mentioned to David, I wrote a (quite detailed) continuation to the review and submitted it earlier but I'm dismayed to discover that it hasn't appeared. I'll test the link first by posting this....

Author:  RMSteele [ Thu Jul 21, 2016 3:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

That worked ok, so I'll summarise the first sky test as follows:-
. Initial setup procedure is simple to work through and the star alignment worked smoothly
. star test revealed good collimation
. selecting three out five objects (M57, Izar, Mizar) worked fine using goto
. two selections failed (Deneb and Altair) because the scope slewed the wrong way
. Izar (epsilon Bootis) easily resolved and at x260 the companion was a pale lavender colour
. motors used a lot of (AA) battery power and slowed a little after an hour's use

Next time out I'll test the PAE (Pointing Accuracy Enhancement) function to refine scope's sky mapping ability and hopefully resolve the failure to find Deneb and Altair. Also, to be fair where batteries are concerned, I used ultra cheap AAs to test it, at 79p for a pack of 20 !!
When I get to Oz I'll buy a rechargeable power pack from the DIY.
'till the next time, Bob

Author:  Brian [ Thu Jul 21, 2016 7:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

RMSteele wrote:
.....continued. As I mentioned to David, I wrote a (quite detailed) continuation to the review and submitted it earlier but I'm dismayed to discover that it hasn't appeared. I'll test the link first by posting this....

Hi Bob. I can't see any log entry to suggest that your review was received/parked/rejected so I'm not sure what happened.

BTW many goto /pointing problems have been tracked down to low battery power or poor power connections to the mount when using an external power supply. Nice 'scope by the way. Maks punch above their weight,


Author:  RMSteele [ Sun Oct 30, 2016 4:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

Hello, just an update to this review. I transported the whole package to Australia by air in my luggage, with the ota in my cabin hand luggage. No problems there. Took it down the great ocean road this weekend to a campsite overlooking the southern ocean. It took moments to align the finder and main scope and it performed faultlessly on Duracell batteries for two hours during a family star party. Definitely avoid cheap batteries, see my previous posts. Objects viewed were tarantula nebula,eta carinae, jewel box cluster, m22, 47 tucanae, m7, m8, and other objects in sagittRius and Scorpio, mars, etc. I also preprogrammed the position of the latest nova in Sagittarius into the user defined object catalogue and it found that successfully on command. The optics had retained their collimation and the image quality was good even after a hot day and 400km in the back of the car. It seemed to reach ambient temperature in the time it took to set it up. As for the site, no moon no light pollution, looking south over the ocean with nothing else between us and Antarctica, the Stars literally went right down to the sea horizon. 47 tucanae stood out so clearly to the unaided eye it looked like a defocused 3rd mag star. Similarly many other clusters were visible to the Ne. In cheap 8x40 binoculars the Magellanic Clouds looked just like they do in wide angle photos, the vague barred s shape of the Lmc and the bulbous looking smc with a tail trending away to the east. A telescope for a beginner who has the patience to level it and go through the alignment process carefully and it appears to travel well and dissasemble and put together quickly. Kind thoughts, bob

Author:  brian livesey [ Mon Oct 31, 2016 10:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

The SKYMAX range of 'scopes have been given rave reviews Bob for their excellent optical performance. I have an ex-demo SKYMAX 90, purchased for £90 on an EQ1. The 'scope has since been transferred to a more rigid mounting.
Views of the Moon through the SKYMAX with the William Optics binoviewer attached are stunningly clear. It remains to be seen if the focusing mechanism is robust enough to last long. There have been reports of backlash developing in some of these 'scopes.

Author:  RMSteele [ Tue Nov 01, 2016 1:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

I agree with you about optical quality Brian, images are text book to use a cliche, looking at point sources, the relative intensity of diffraction rings etc; on extended star fields the lack of scattered light giving Milky Way fields the granularity that tells you instantly that you have achieved correct focus. Assessing optical quality is a daunting issue to a beginner but for me the more difficult matter is assessing the functionality of the whole package with this goto scope. It works for sure but how well it work for you, me or the eponymous beginner are 3 different things. For example I can set it up quickly and accurately despite having used it little, but my son who is a competent technician in his chosen profession, yet a beginner in astronomy did not achieve accurate slewing to selected objects despite picking up the setup procedure quickly. No doubt a couple more trials with some tips from me will sort that out, but I wonder how many beginners doing it on their own will quickly lose interest in goto setups through early frustrations. Having said the good things that I have about this scope I, personally, still prefer a simple manual altaz mount for touring the skies, not because I am a 60 plus dinosaur but because I already know the sky and how to find things. I bought it for others to use. Experience still counts, eg in saving a beginner the trouble of selecting m42 and omega cen when they are out of view (oh yes, I demonstrated that the scope will naturally slew to the positions of objects that are occluded by landscape features). Kind regards bob

Author:  brian livesey [ Wed Nov 02, 2016 2:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

I mounted the SKYMAX 90 on a low-cost AZ-3 mounting with manual tangent drives. This is a rigid mounting for small 'scopes and incredibly light, it takes the PST too.
I added a counterweight like this one: .

Author:  RMSteele [ Thu Nov 03, 2016 12:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

Hello Brian, interesting modification to the az3; we all seem to have spare counterweights lying about. I notice that the tv85 in the link you gave looks like it would still be awkward to get right close to the zenith due to the length of the draw tube. I take it that your 90mm mak is short enough to avoid that and more convenient with its primary mirror focussing. The SW goto mount cranks the 102 mak from 0 to 90 degrees altitude in under 30 seconds and the tube fittings don't foul the mounting: no balance issues here. Kind thoughts to you, bob

Author:  RMSteele [ Sun Feb 04, 2018 8:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

Having had the little Mak for 18 months, I feel it’s time to do a catch up. First off, having carted it half way around the globe and used it for two seasons during my trips to Oz, would I buy this scope again? Yes, I use it. It’s good value for money in my opinion. It’s portable and transportable and it’s proved to be optically, mechanically and ergonomically sound so far.

Niggles? A few, very few actually. I find the 6x30 finder on such a low mounted scope awkward to use at even moderate elevations (I am 64 and the bits that used to be loose are stiff and, unfortunately, vice versa) and the finder gets in the way a when I want to use my right eye at the eyepiece. I’d prefer a red dot finder - they are shorter. The other thing is that the focuser has lost it’s earlier smoothness. It now moves incrementally, stop/start fashion. I choose my words carefully because the focussing action is by no means stiff or annoyingly jerky. However, as the Mak has a large focal ratio focussing is still no problem. I know some people attach a plastic clothes peg to the focus knob to give finer leverage or they replace the focuser at great expense. I can achieve focus in small increments with no problem.

The good points. Well, the strength of this telescope package is exactly that; the whole package works well. For any eyepiece, the Mak yields a smaller field of view than a short focus instrument.It has a focal length of 1300mm. Thus the supplied 25mm eyepiece gives x52 on the Mak, whereas it would give x16 on my short focus refractor that has focal length of 400mm. This has implications when you are searching with the Mak for objects that are fainter than the finder will show, since that eyepiece will show an area of sky that is approximately ten times smaller than the short focus refractor; and with the light pollution these days a 6x30 finder usefully shows diddly squat as our American friends say (as far as I am concerned the finder is of use only for homing in on the bright stars required for the mount’s alignment procedure). The synscan mount complements the Mak by providing the means to locate objects effectively and automatically. It’s also steady when focussing, even at x260* (using the supplied x2 Barlow and 10mm eyepiece). And the dumpy little telescope itself offers the great advantage that I can sit comfortably on a stool and view objects at all elevations.
* Only really useful for double stars

Before you buy a synscan system you have to be honest with yourself. If you are a CBA person (Cant Be A…d), this isn’t for you. It works for me because, although I am, technologically, a dinosaur, I am of the species Methodiclodocus. The alignment procedure requires reasonable care. I level the tripod carefully, I enter the time accurately and I centre the alignment stars as accurately as I can. That takes me no more than 10 minutes. Even using a x40 eyepiece of my own for alignment, the accuracy achieved is good enough for the synscan mount to bring objects into the field of the x130 (10mm) eyepiece, most times anyway!

The optics: here we go. I am a purely visual observer so all my comments relate to that activity. Read some astronomy forums and you may suspect that the mania for optical technicalities almost constitutes a mental disorder. The supplied 25mm eyepiece, well, it works, but the 10mm and x2 Barlow are perfectly serviceable. I go by what I see. Recently, the 10mm showed me the companion to epsilon Canis Majoris (Adhara). On my own personal scale of double star difficulty, I rate Adhara as 7, challenging, requires very good seeing (0 = no difficulty, easily visible whatever the seeing, 10 = virtually impossible, glimpsed only in perfect seeing). As I said, perfectly serviceable. I have mentioned the scope’s optics in earlier posts so I shall not repeat myself here. Just one point, if you observe near lighting it’s an idea to make a light/dew shield out of some black card - it helps to shade the meniscus lens from stray light that can degrade your view.

Did I buy that power pack instead of using AA batteries? Nah - CBA! I use good AAs, they do for me.

I have no connection with Skywatcher or it's agents. My opinions are purely my own conclusions. Kind regards, Bob

Author:  David Frydman [ Sun Feb 04, 2018 3:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: skywatcher skymax 102 synscan AZ (MAK)

Thanks Bob for the nice update.

I got a 90mm Skywatcher Mak about a year ago and it works even terrestrially at 190x, but only in very bright sunshine. Otherwise the contrast is low.

I have had the 127mm Skywatcher Mak for many years, but optically it is not that good.
Also decades ago I used a 127mm aperture f/6 Celestron Mak lens as a scope, but it also wasn't great. I took it to La Palma but the 150mm Newtonian from Luton on a simple altaz mount was much better.

The BAS 150mm f/10 Mak with a separate secondary mirror was used a lot, although it was limited to about 100x because of only fair optics. I did see Enceladus in it. It was fantastic terrestrially at 95x.

The David Hinds 150mm f/15 Mak was better.

The Sigma 500mm f/4 compound mirror lens was awful visually.

I have never had a GoTo scope, thankfully.


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