Quantaray QT-80700 Table Top Telescope
My grandma-in-law always says, “Those who don’t listen have to feel.”
So chastened, I must humbly admit that I should have listened to you my fellow Astromarters over the past few months when you said in various forum posts to be wary of Newtonian reflectors with tubes that are far shorter than their advertised focal length. I should have listened when you advised against telescopes with .965 inch eyepieces. I should have listened when you expressed disappointment with table top reflectors. I should have listened when you advised beginners to stick to well known companies with solid reputations. But, when I saw the Quantaray QT80700 Table Top reflector on clearance from a major camera retailer for only $36, I was weak. I could not resist. I ordered it. I knew better, I rationalized it as being o.k. for moon watching, and I ordered it anyway. I just had to feel!
This telescope is a small tabletop reflector similar in design to the Celestron Tabletop-76. It has an 80mm objective and a 700mm focal length. It came with Huygens-design 20mm and 6mm eyepieces and a long 18mm erecting eyepiece. It also came with the infamous and almost useless .965-inch 2x barlow. The scope attaches to a small tabletop tripod via a single camera tripod mounting screw. Two knobs on the tripod allow the user to make fine aiming adjustments and a 5x24 right-angle finder is standard equipment. The entire kit fits in a small black zippered bag that is just a little larger than a large shoe-box. The tripod comes with it’s own small bag that should fit into a zippered compartment on the side of the telescope bag. Since we live in a relatively small apartment, I was pleased by the compact size of the telescope.
The telescope arrived in just over a week and was double-boxed. However, upon opening, inner box was revealed to be slightly torn and bearing a couple of successively lower prices. When I opened the box and pulled out the telescope it was a little dusty and shelf-worn. The carrying case was attractively styled and made of fairly heavy duty material. But, the zippers were flimsy and both of the closed zippers on the carrying case were pulling apart. It took a little careful maneuvering to get them operational again. Overall, I was disappointed by the initial condition of the scope, but I pressed on impressed by the telescopes small size and intrigued by its design. From the outside, it looked like a little Schmidt-Newtonian. Obviously for the camera chain, “clearance” really meant clearance. I had definitely freed up some shelf space for them. I was starting to “feel” that I had made a bad buy.
My first outing with the scope was marginally successful. There were little glimmers of hope. With a little eyepiece case in hand and the scope in its bag casually slung over my shoulder, I was able to get out of the apartment without incident. When I got down to picnic table that I had intended to use, I found that my view of the moon would be blocked by a vine covered arbor and a building. So, I walked over to our aging SUV and quickly set the scope up on the hood. I had a great view of the moon with my eyes! Then I maneuvered the right angle finder so that I could get a view of the moon with it. When focused, the 5x24 right-angle finder actually gave a nice sharp view. I was impressed.
Of course, when the moon looked good in the finder, it was no where to be found in the 20mm eyepiece. I must have spent fifteen minutes using various screws on the finder and trying to maneuver it into position so that I could see the moon through the finder and the eyepiece simultaneously. At best, I could get into a situation where I could apply “Kentucky windage” and aim the scope appropriately. If the moon was about a quarter of the way to crosshairs, then the moon should be in the eyepiece. If it wasn’t in the eyepiece, I was sometimes able to use the fine adjustment knobs on the tripod to center it in the eyepiece. Of course, other times, I just knocked the tube or the lightweight tripod askew and had to start the whole process over. I was feeling a little frustrated.
The connection between the tripod and the scope seems to be the weak link on this tabletop scope. The mounting plate that screws onto scope ring does not seem to hold the scope in a straight up and down Alt-Az orientation. It comes close, but the telescope is always held at a slight angle. It’s not surprising because the box label says it is an “equatorial telescope.” I may be missing something, but there doesn’t seem to be anything equatorial about the provided mount. This little inconsistency made me doubt the manufacturer.
O.K. It’s not a great scope, but what could I see? As a less demanding target, the moon actually looked pretty good in the scope. I have a small collection of .965 eyepieces and was able to get a pretty good look at the moon through 25mm, 20mm, 13mm, 10mm, and 6mm eyepieces. The view seemed comparable to the view from the troublesome Tasco 60mm refractors that I recently voted off of my island. With my old Tasco 60mm refractors, I was plagued by a poorly placed focuser that would require shortening the scope tube so that it could focus correctly. Although the focuser on this Quantaray scope was cheap, plastic, and occasionally made crackling sounds, it did allow me to focus on the moon. However, the views through this tabletop scope was not nearly as sharp as the views enjoyed through my Orion Observer 70 refractor. I’d grade this scope as marginally acceptable for casual lunar observing. When I finished my short lunar session, I felt that the little telescope might be o.k.
However, when I tried to turn my attention to a very bright Jupiter, I found there was more cause for concern. First, I had trouble getting it into the eyepiece. This was sad because Jupiter was only a few degrees away from the moon when I was observing. It took me several minutes to find the moon and then turn the scope by the appropriate number of tads and smidges to get Jupiter into the eyepiece. I never did find a good way to get both the telescope and the finder looking at the same thing at the same time. At times, I resorted to sighting along the scope tube.
When I finally did get Jupiter in the eyepiece, I could not bring it to a nice focus. I could see that there were a planetary disk and that there were some moons. However, they were not crisply distinguished like they are in my 70mm refractor. Worse, when the bright planet was out of focus, it also formed some strange shapes. I don't know much about testing optics, but I think I saw something like a diffraction ’C’ rather than an O-shaped diffraction ring. I was beginning to feel that there was a problem with the optics.
Unfortunately, there is no provision for collimating the telescope. The rear of the tube is clearly marked with a sticker warning that users should not take it apart or adjust the screws. But, the price is low enough that I’m very tempted to give it a try. I might even learn something. Perhaps not to unscrew things I know little about? Right now, I feel that I don’t have much to lose by taking a stab at collimation.
When I tried to extend my viewing to other celestial objects, I discovered one final flaw with this scope. The mount simply doesn’t allow you to aim much higher than about 45-degrees. I couldn’t see the stars because I couldn’t aim at them. I didn’t bother to look further for double stars and deep space objects. I don’t feel the scope will be much use in that quest.
I think I’ll have fun tinkering with this scope. But, it is more of a curiosity and a potential project than a functional telescope. For now, I have given up on it. However, that doesn’t mean that manufacturers should give up on making table top scopes. The idea of a convenient little scope for quick use from a picnic table, a car hood, window sill, or similar stand is still quite appealing. This design of this scope could be improved by providing a better mount, some means for collimation, 1.25 inch eyepieces, and red-dot finder. If the optics were better, I’d be tempted to make my own Starblast-style Dobsonian mount. Orion has told manufacturers how to make a successful tabletop telescope with its Starblast. Too bad Quantaray didn’t listen. Instead, I had to feel. Next time, maybe I’ll listen.
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