Last month I purchased the iOptron SmartStar E R80 available from Amazon as part of my work on a new book I am working on and needed a low budget solution for AP and this iOptron telescope seemed to fit the bill. You can’t really write about budget AP if you are using thousands of dollars worth of mounts and scopes to get the images, now can you? So after looking around I decided on this iOptron SmartStar for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that it uses a side mount so the camera presents less of an interference problem with the mount. I thought this would be the perfect cheap astrophotography telescope. It arrived in one small box, here it is with a 12″ scale on top of the box to give you an idea of size, being inspected by my postal inspector:
I wasn’t expecting much from this iOptron SmartStar, and as I expected, the bulk of it felt like cheap plastic. The scope, the focuser, the mount, all pretty much plastic. The build quality was better than I expected for a budget telescope in the $250 range, but was still cheap. What I did not expect however, was how well the SmartStar R80 Computerized Telescope performed…
Once hooked up and pointed roughly south (odd I thought since all the other scopes I have need to point north) I told it where to go, it went, more or less to the right area of the sky but definitely not on target. Once you sync it to a couple of stars however it is remarkably accurate. In fact, using a low power eyepiece you are virtually assured to get any target in your field of view on the first attempt.
This isn’t impressive on my SkyView Pro or Sirius setups, in fact, “in the field of view” is not acceptable for them, they need to be dead center of the field of view. But when you consider this scope and mount combination cost about one third of what my cheapest goto EQ mount alone cost, it is impressive indeed.
The next impressive thing is the views. How good can a 80mm budget telescope with a cheap plastic tube and a cheap plastic diagonal and a cheap mostly plastic eyepiece be? Better than I expected! In the same league as my other scopes? Well, no, of course not, but far better than the price tag would lead you to believe. In fact, one of the things I thought when I bought this setup was I could swap out the scope for a nice ED doublet, a dielectric diagonal and a real EP and use it as a nice little grab and go scope. While I still may do that I certainly am in no rush as the views of M42, the moon, and Jupiter were quite reasonable.
The one place I was not impressed was the tripod. Stability was not this thing’s middle name, not even its great grandfather’s middle name. Light weight, sure. Easy to transport and set up, yup. Stable, not even a little. The good news is that if ever there was a cheap scope and mount that was worth spending a little money on finding a slightly heavier tripod, this is it.
The basic setup of this iOptron SmartStar comes with the mount, tripod, hand controller, AC adapter (can also run off batteries), 80mm scope, 45 degree diagonal, 25mm and 10mm eyepieces. So over all would I recommend this setup? Absolutely. In fact, if anyone asks me for a suggestion on what scope to get someone showing a faint interest in astronomy without breaking the bank, instead of the normal 8″ Dob a lot of people insist on suggesting, this will be my scope of choice.
Light weight, easy to use, reasonable views, and a nice selection of targets you can just press a button and slew to without doing a lot of star hopping. This should be a real winner for newcomers to the hobby who want a budget telescope and if I had one of these back in the day instead of that awful reflector I started with, I would have never given up astronomy for all those years.
All ratings considering price:
Ease of use: ****
If you would like purchase an iOptron SmartStar E R80 for yourself, please use my link: iOptron SmartStar to help offset the cost of maintaining this website.
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