Tasco 46-114375 Review [WOW at $110]

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by Xevious, Oct 1, 2003.

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  1. Xevious Truth Beyond Logic Registered Senior Member

    We all know the colorful reputation that the name “Tasco” carries. Some smirk when it is mentioned and mutter “trashco” under their breath. While I can understand this and even find it justified from so many bad experiences had by so many with this trade name, I think it is time we gave a new, critical and unbiased view at the newest telescopes to bear the name. Old astronomy buffs from years back remember a time when the name “Tasco” carried a certain respect. They will tell of all metal focus mounts, good quality Japanese optics, and reasonably sturdy tripods. I found this hard to believe, until I one day had the good fortune to encounter an old Tasco 60mm refractor at a thrift store. Though the old Alt-Azimuth tripod was little more than broken parts, the optical tube itself was a treasure. The primary lense was scratched slightly but otherwise of impressive quality. The tube was all metal, and the focus mount was not only all metal, but featured a focal extension tube. Of course, I took it home, and gave it a complete overhaul. It is now my guide scope, and it is also my best telescope for moon and solar observing.
    Tasco was clearly once a respected name, but what happened? Department stores, and profits that's what. Tasco telescopes started getting shoddier and shoddier through the late 70's and through the mid to late 90's, to the point that the company had no respectable reputation. Some time in the last few years, Tasco bought Celestron. A great many astronomers were so distraught by this that they hesitated to continue buying Celestron. They thought that Tasco would begin to cheapen Celestron's telescope line. The reverse turned out to happen, and a generation of Tasco telescopes emerged of amazing quality, including Tasco's own versions of Celestron's famed Nexstar telescopes. However, Tasco was in serious financial straights and merging with Celestron didn't solve them, but only make them worse. Celestron broke away from Tasco only months after the merger, and on the verge of bankruptcy the trade name was bought by Bushnell. So, what point of this story? The company which was known as “Trashco” is long gone, and new telescopes bearing that name deserve to be given a chance to stand on their own merits. So it comes, that I recently received as a gift, a Tasco 46-114375Galaxsee reflector.

    Out of the Box Impressions
    The box was neatly packed, commercially packed in fact to fit on a store shelf. Like any Tasco I've ever seen, the magnification of the instrument is clearly visible on the front as part of it's department store decor. I'm at first disappointed and unsure of what to find in the box, but after the shiny outer box came off and I opened the white under box, I am surprised to find the same small boxes which the parts for my Orion Spaceprobe 3” came in. There was a small box for the EQ tripod head, the legs, accessories, counterweight, and one for the optical tube, all packaged exactly like an Orion or Celestron product. Right away this confirmed my growing suspicion – Tasco has jumped onto Synta's bandwagon and is now nothing more than another label for these same well known Chinese imports, known for good quality at the price, and what a price this telescope was! It was no more than $110 at Sunglasses Giant, an online optical outlet. This means that comparing this telescope to the comparable offerings of the “Big 3” both in price and in aperture is not only justified but demanded! For direct comparison however, it has to stand up to my first telescope, Orion's Spaceprobe 3”. Though smaller in aperture, Orion's entry level equatorial reflector is pitched into the same budget range as this Tasco. That telescope came with good accessories and produces a very sharp, crisp views backed by Orion's guarantee that the mirror will be 1/8 wave accurate. Tasco clearly has there work cut out for them even against a aperture inferior telescope.

    The EQ-1 tripod is well known to most amature Astronomers as the standard for most small reflectors and refractors. Orion uses it on the Shortube 4.5 and smaller instruments, while Celestron uses it mainly on it's Firstcope series, the Firstscope 76 being the largest to use it. Compared to the EQ-1 provided on the Spaceprobe 3” I have, it has two major differences. One is its stance is noticeably wider, and two is that the accessory tray isn't as nice. The wider stance should give the Tasco Galaxsee more stability, but the accessory tray linking the 3 legs together isn't as solid as the Orion and thus the 3 legs tend to shake more. This is of course easy to remedy by building a small triangular frame to better brace the stance of the tripod. Once that flaw is corrected however, it's wider stance makes it superior to Orion's EQ-1. My Orion EQ-1M clock drive mated to the tripod head with no problems whatsoever. The slow motion control cables are the typical Synta black, stiff sticks. I will replace those with knobs from Radio Shack soon enough. All in all, it is not only usable, but exactly the right tripod for the job. In fact, the Spaceprobe 3” seems to be a tougher load on this tripod than the Galaxsee is, because it's optical tube is much longer.

    Telescope Tube
    Here we have the grand slam of the whole package. The Galaxsee 46-114375 is a 4.5 inch reflector, with a 500mm focal length. By specification, this is a rich-field reflector telescope which should serve up nice images of bright deep sky objects. There are 3 thumbscrews on the back of the mirror cell, but these aren't for mirror adjustments. They are actually the screws holding the mirror cell to the mirror cell mount. I was surprised to find that the spherical mirror is mounted in a cell which leaves it exposed to the air, much as one finds on Orion's Atlas 10 telescope. To protect the mirror, Tasco has inserted a thin sheet of plastic between the mirror and cell, which I promptly removed as to expose the mirror. It would be a very easy task to rig a small fan up to mirror cell so that thermal equilibrium could be reached in just minutes. In fact, I'm going to do just that! When I popped off the lense cap and the aperture cover and stared down the tube I got another surprise. The secondary mirror was a really good size... in fact when I looked down the focus mount, the edges of the secondary mirror were barely visible around the inside of the focus tube. I imagine this is important for a rich field instrument. In fact, the Spaceprobe 3” 's secondary mirror is less than half the size of this monster!
    Attaching the tube itself to the EQ-1 tripod head was easy enough. Rather than using tube rings like many others, the flaxseed's has a small dovetail mount and a pair of long screws which line up directly with the tripod head. The Spaceprobe 3” attaches to it's tripod in the same manor. The lack of tube rings doesn't bother me though. I know from my experience with my Orion that this can work well. The focus mount was typical for any Synta import of this size. It is heavy duty plastic, which moves smoothly and is not at all “cheap” in any respect. My Celestron focus motor attached to it effortlessly as well.

    Eyepieces & Barlow
    Tasco ships the Galaxsee with three eyepieces, and a 3x barlow lense. The eyepieces are a 20mm Kellner, a 10mm Kellner, and a 4mm Ramsden. My initial impression of the eyepieces is that they are noticeably lighter than my Plossl or my Orion Explorer II Kellners. Taking a guess, the eyepieces might be using plastic lenses instead of glass. On the other hand, these MA 20mm and 10mm eyepieces do have rubber eye guards. When I held the 10mm up and looked though it, I noticed it had rather comfortable eye relief for a relatively small focal eyepiece. It was certainly more comfortable than on my 10mm Explorer II. The 3x barlow seems rather cheaply made and the 4mm eyepiece likewise. To me, it seemed like the 4mm eyepiece was a very half-hearted attempt by Tasco to live up to the promised 375x magnification. However, the 4mm did have OK eye relief for an eyepiece that small. The 3x barlow on the other hand, I saw as necessary in light of fact that the telescope inherently had low magnifications for a given eyepiece. A barlow would be required no matter what circumstance, if one wanted to do any useful closeup planetary or lunar study.

    Just about every small telescope nowadays ships with a BB gun red dot finder, and why shouldn't they? Horrible finder scopes are probably one of the biggest turn-offs to budding astronomers. After all, if you can't see anything, what's the point? The Tasco finder is identical to the Orion EZ-Finder, and seems to work well in it's assigned task. Compared to my Telrad however, it isn't much. But that's OK – no beginner needs a Telrad, and the reflex finder the Galaxsee comes with is actually a very good finder no matter how you square it. I will be using it on the Galaxsee until I can get another base to mount my Telrad. I'll probably move it over to my Spaceprobe 3” after that.

    What is there to say about Tasco's “Skywatch” software accept that it is just a relabeled copy of Software Bisque's “The Sky” Astronomy software, level 1? It is an EXCELLENT planetarium and the same program Orion ships with all of it's telescopes. For any beginner getting a first telescope, it should be a highly valuable aid!

    First Light: The Trial by Starlight
    At around 2:00AM I went outside with the new telescope to see how it performed in the real world. Just about everything Tasco offered looks great both on paper and out of the box, but seeing is really believing. For this initial test run, I picked 3 targets. The first was the Orion Nebula, second was the Pleadies cluster, and third was Mars. After a bottle of soda and dinner to keep me up for the night, I took the Tasco outside to reach thermal equilibrium. The three tripod legs planted into the ground and held steady, uncompromising to the light winds. That surprised me, but even when I bumped the thing lightly, the instrument didn't shake nearly as much as my Spaceprobe 3”. 30 minutes later, the observing began.
    The reflex finder worked out accurately enough that I could find Orion's sword, and I popped in the MA20mm to peak. The stars themselves looked kinda rough and grainy, as if I was looking at pixels on a computer screen. I switched over to Orion's 25mm Kellner and the image went from OK to crisp. In fact, the image was in every way just as clear and crisp as anything my Spaceprobe 3” had put out. The difference was however, that the whole area of Orion's sword beckoned my eyepiece... a truly generous deep sky view! Excited by this wider view of things, I reached for my 30mm GTO Plossl and was utterly stunned by the richness of the field of view. When I was observing the Pleadies, I got the same breathtaking results. The optical tube at least, was worth it's weight in gold. Come to think of it though, the eyepieces didn't weigh anything so they probably were indeed worth their weight as well. Once again, the supplied MA20mm was solidly outperformed by Orion's 25mm Explorer II, and GTO's 30mm Plossl just buried it.
    Mars was a great choice for seeing if it really could be pushed to “375x”. The view using my Orion kellners was crisp, but when I inserted the 4mm Ramsden Mars went from a deep orange to red. It clearly was distorted. I went back to Tasco's MA10mm, and found that the colors on it were distorted too, but not quite as severely. Thus, I pulled out the 3x barlow. Mars got closer allright, but now it had a greenish glow at it's edges. When I inserted the horrible 4mm Ramsden, Mars became a rainbow with a red center and a spectrum going all the way out to green and blue at the edges of the planet. So much for 375x. I knew what to expect, but it was a claim to investigate.

    The instrument is an incredible rich-field jewel. The other instruments in it's class: the Orion Starblast and Edmund Astroscan, are both alt-azimuth mounted. This Galaxsee is equatorial mounted, and it seems to be the ONLY rich field equatorial mounted insturment in this price range, giving it a unique position in the telescope market. Other equatorial 4.5inch instruments such as the Orion Shortube 4.5 and the Celestron Firstcope 114 are both long focal lengths, better suited to planetary work.
    The only disappointment came in it's eyepieces. If Tasco would just raise the price around $20 and throw in a pair of good quality Kellners or RKE's instead of these cheap MA's, this telescope would probably dominate the market and set Tasco on a reputation for incredible price for performance. As it is already, for $110 you are getting a telescope MORE than worth the money. For around $40-60 you can buy for yourself a pair of quality Kellners or even Plossls to replace Tasco's cheap MA's and STILL come out ahead of all the competition. Orion and Celestron's 4.5 inch equatorial telescopes start at around $200 each. In short, none of the big telescope companies have anything close.
    On a more personal note it seems my Spaceprobe 3” might see more time in the closet. I definably will need it for the lunar eclipse, and the instrument is still my first choice for any lunar or planetary observing. Since it can share the same tripod as my Galaxsee, the two can also share my clock drive, and of course my nice quality Kellner and Plossl eyepieces. But when it comes to deep sky observing, my Orion just doesn't compare.

    Clear skies!
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  3. Ruchir Registered Member


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    I purchased the Tasco Galaxee 114375 reflector. Using it with the eyepieces supplied images of Jupiter and stars appear distorted and unfocused. Will changing the eyepiece to a better quality one solve the problem, or is there a chance that I have a problem with the mirrors?

    Please advise, I'm just starting out.
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  5. blobrana Registered Senior Member

    Excellent review.
    I noticed that the eyepieces are usually made of glass (I’ve taken them apart to see) the standard a 20mm Kellner, a 10mm Kellner, and a 4mm Ramsden are a basic beginners set, (so it’s worth looking out for a Orthoscopic design for planetary work, or something equally expensive, used with a a good (expensive) 2-3x Barlows).
    (BTW the `Kellner` included are actually <b>Modified Achromats</b>, a variant on the Kellner design.)

    But having said that the 3-element eyepiece usually provided sharp and bright images at low and medium power, with small or medium apertures. And they’re best used at <b>f/7</b> and greater. And as you noted, they have good eye relief, with about 40 degrees of apparent field.
    So for an inexpensive, and far superior to Ramsden and Huygenian designs, they are the main stay for my kit...

    As for the <i>fuzzy images</i> that probably due to the bane of reflector designs…<b>mirror alignment</b>…it’s worth making contact with someone in your area to sort that one out.
    Er, but having said that, it’s easy once you know how to adjust the main mirror; in fact, it’s so easy you could do it in the dark….
    Hehe, An alternative is to get a long focal length eyepiece like a 30-40mm (hum, i just noticed that the focal length of the scope is a superfast f/4 - not good for really high magnification; 10mm will give you 50x, 20mm will give you 25x...) so that it’ll `hide` the distortions and give you wonderful picture book images...

    (BTW remove all things like star diagonals and barlows just to make sure that it’s not bad optics on their part. And make sure you’re not looking at a planet over a hot neighbour’s house; the atmospheric distortion will make it look like you’re underwater. If all is well, Jupiter for example will appear crisp for a few seconds of clear viewing, and reveal <i>one or two</i> bands, but not much more. Saturn will appear slightly smaller and show a distinctive ring, but <b>it’s unlikely</b> you’ll see any `g a p s` the first time round.
    The best instrument for planetary viewing is a large refractor, imho, so reserve your tasco for double stars work, comets and general `enjoyment`.)

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    Last edited: Mar 6, 2005
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  7. Xevious Truth Beyond Logic Registered Senior Member

    I still, after investing in a cheshire collumator have nothing but bad luck with the 20mm MA. I've tried useing it on my Orion and end up getting a fish-eye view. Maybe I just got a bad eyepiece, but either way I just hate it. I'll probably take it apart for the optics eventually. I would strongly suggest the $20 get some good GTO Plossls, or Orion Explorer II's. I'm with you, Ruchir. The eyepiecs are just trash.
  8. blobrana Registered Senior Member

    >>The eyepieces are just trash.
    I wouldn’t be so harsh, the MA eye pieces might perform better for Ruchir if he increased the focal length with a balows lens…(they don’t like the fast f4 tasco tube).

    But Orion's Sirius Plossl series is also a good choice if he wanted a low cost alternative.
    They will probably out perform the reflectors (spherical?) mirror.
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