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80mm f5 Orion Short Tube (and tripod)

Yeah - I have one of these, too! I picked up the OTA used at a star party and mounted it on a Bogen 3211 tripod with a 3126 fluid head. The tripod was actually bought with and for the Orion 10x70 Little Giant binoculars I purchased several years ago. It works with the ST80, but I eventually made something better (below).

Short Tube 80 on its tripod

My impressions have followed closely those of Ed Ting and others I've read. It's certainly not an Astro-Physics, but neither was the price I paid. For the money, I can't complain at all. Although low power planetary views are OK, don't try to push it. Where this little scope excels is on wide-field deep sky vistas. I could easily stay busy an entire observing session just cruising around the Milky Way looking at clusters.

Several reviewers have reported pinched optics on these Chinese-made refractors, but I don't think the objective is pinched in this particular unit. However, there does appear to be a slight bit of diffraction from the fairly large spacer strips between the elements of the achromat.

My primary complaint is not optical - It's mechanical. In this unit (at least), there's a considerable amount of drawtube slop when it's extended from the focuser a bit. I've not yet given it a serious look, but I suppose I can do something about it with a reasonable amount of effort. It's possible to minimize it by keeping the drawtube lock screw just slightly less than tight - loose enough to focus, but tight enough to stabilize it.

I later purchased a small tripod and EQ mount from Rex's Astro Stuff for astronomical use of the scope. The Bogen tripod, while of excellent quality, is simply just a bit light for astronomical use. However, for terrestrial viewing, it's quite sufficient. Although the EQ-1 mount and tripod are fine, I quickly discovered that I'm too tall (6'2") to easily use it for astronomical observing, particularly at the zenith!. As a result, I finally (almost 2 years later) built a lightweight oak alt-az tripod and mount for the little scope. It works great, although I'll never put anything on this tripod any heavier than the 80. Then again, that was part of the design - Make it sufficient, but not heavier than necessary. It's also tall enough to make observing pleasant instead of grueling.

Short Tube 80 on its tripod

All in all, it's a great little scope that travels well and observes just as well. I fixed up a 24 inch tough plastic toolbox to make a quick "astronomy-in-a-minute" kit. In the bottom of the box, I've custom-cut foam for the scope, counterweight, LED finder and a pair of 10x25 binoculars. In the tray, I'm able to include oculars, a 90° diagonal, a 45° upright-image prism, extension tube, 6x30 finder, filters, LED flashlight, a couple of tools, a David Chandler mini-planisphere, The Field Guide to the Stars and Planets and Richard Dibon-Smith's The Constellations Pocket Guide, in addition to a small printout of my personal eyepiece spreadsheet and a T-ring / camera adapter tube set!

My Short Tube 80 in its box

Just grab the box and tripod, and head out! (...or throw it in the trunk at the very last minute when going on family vacations, for minimal fuss from the wife... "Gee, Hon... I didn't know that was in the trunk!"