Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Scope: William Optics 66mm Petzval Semi-APO

I have been in the market for a small refractor to fill a niche in my scope collection. Basically, I wanted something that could achieve the following:
  • Act as a quick grab and go scope for wide field scanning
  • Act as a guide scope atop my LX200 when in equatorial mode
  • Potentially act as a wide field astrophotography rig for large objects like M42, M31 etc.
  • Serve as a travel scope when on the road
  • Act as a small solar scope in con junction with a filter
So, I had been eagerly watching various astronomy classifieds like Astromart to pick something up on the cheap. I was looking at either William Optics or Astrotech refractors, both of which share marvellous reviews across their telescope range. Last weekend I found what I was after: a William Optics 66mm Petzval Semi-APO refractor! It has a focal length of 400mm and an f ratio of 6.1. This scope is a small, lightweight (5lbs) design that boasts a 2" 10:1 dual speed crayford focuser, an extendable dew shield and rotating focuser unit for astrophotography needs. The lens design is supposed to allow for nice flat fields which also helps for shooting the stars.

It arrived in the mail today, and it is a fantastic little scope!!! It came in a nice travel case complete with foam fittings and room for a diagonal and an eyepiece. The quality if the scope is superb, everything I thought a William Optics scope would bring to the table. It's beatiful to look at - nice paint job on the OTA and the focuser is very nicely put together. This scope is made to last and made to perform.

I got lucky and the clouds cleared away at around 8:30PM this evening. So, I drove to a nearby park to try it out. I took two eyepieces; my Panoptic 22mm and my Radian 10mm. Right now, I have the scope mounted on my camera tripod. Not an entirely stable platform, but it will do until the scope gets mounted on the LX200 (or I buy a more stable tripod for grab-and-go alt-az operation). Despite that (and the fact that I had selected a spot also popular to the local fire ants!!), I put it through its paces as best I could.

I started off with Jupiter. With the Panoptic at 18X magnification, it was a small bright disc with moons clearly visible. I bumped it up to 40X with the Radian 10mm, and was very surprised by the image. The disc could clearly be seen, with nice color and main cloud bands clearly evident. Still quite small, but an excellent, sharp, tight image that took me by surprise given the size of the scope.

I then scanned the Scorpius and Sagittarius regions. This was great fun! I used the Panoptic 22mm and slowly panned throughout the region. The M8 Lagoon nebula was quite bright with some nebulosity clearly seen. The Small Sagittarius Star Cloud looked nice as well. M20 was clearly visible, and M7 looked sharp indeed. Stars were sharp and tight across the entire field of view - perfect! Finally, I had to finish the night as the fire ants were getting the better of me. I sought out M13 and found it fairly quickly. A small glowing ball against a nice dark background with some surrounding stars. Again, a pleasing sight.

Overall, I am very pleased with this scope. I know what I bought - a small, wide field refractor that could pull in quite a few photons given the right conditions - and I think I got a bargain. Currently these scopes are selling for around US$200-US$300second-hand. I got this one for US$200, which in my mind is a steal. It may be a while before I start taking images with it (I am still learning precise polar alignment with my LX200 at this point) but I can't wait to see the results once I start utilizing it in this role.


imjeffp said...

Sounds like you got a great deal on a great little scope!

Robert Besalke said...

Ran across your blog while searching for info on my William Optics Zenithstar 66mm Petzval scope. How do you connect your Nikon to the scope? I have the 2" SCT adapter and 2" photo adapter but don't seem to have enough inward travel on the focuser to reach infinity focus point when I connect my DSLR. Any help is appreciated! Great site!

Phil said...

Hi Robert,

So, I just use a Nikon T-adapter with a straightforward 2" T-extender tube. I don't use a diagonal, just all connected directly to the scope. I'm able to focus with no issues this way. Now, I am using a Nikon D7000 which has a cropped sensor - not sure how that compares against a full-frame Nikon or if that even makes a difference - just throwing that out there in case you are using a full frame body. Let me know, email me at the link on my blog at top right for more direct contact.

Thanks for the visit and the comments!