|Aperture||120 mm (4.7 inches)|
|Focal Length||900 mm (35.4 inches)|
|Accessories||Dual speed 2 inch Crayford focuser, 1.25 inch inch adaptor, 20 mm and mm 1.25 inch eyepieces, 8×50 RA Viewfinder, 2 inch electrical diagonal, tube ring attachment hardware, carry case|
Even though refractor telescopes are just as well made, and sometimes even offer you great advantages, they are often outshone by their less expensive and bigger reflector counterparts. Not to mention that some brands have flooded the market, leaving little hype about lesser known models. The Skywatcher Pro 120 ED refractor is a telescope that you may only know of if you go looking for it and even then, but it may just end up being what you wanted in the first place. Here is a look at all you need to know about it and determine if it is the right telescope for you.
Firstly, it must be said that there is some confusion as to which model this telescope is. There is another floating around, called the EvoStar that looks like the exact same telescope. That is because it is. Skywatcher, for reasons unknown, updated the branding on this model without upgrading or changing any of its hardware. It seems that most customers are unaware of this ‘newer’ EvoStar model, and ‘ED’ or ‘Pro’ are the more popular names anyway. So, for the sake of consistency (and because its new name has not really caught on), this review will refer to it by its original name.
The Pro 120 ED is a well-rounded telescope that includes (almost) everything that a beginner needs to get going. Included in your purchase is a bundle of useful accessories that you can use to optimize your viewing without spending extra money on modifications. You will get two 1.25 inch eyepieces (a 20mm and a 5 mm), an 8×5 RA viewfinder, electrical diagonal and the nicest accessory, a dual speed 2 inch Crayford-style focuser. It has been noted that rack and pinion style focusers do not work as well with this model, so it is great that Skywatcher included the perfect one in your purchase to prevent hassle and wasting money. You also get tube ring attachments and a handy carry case for free when you buy this telescope, for extra protection.
As for its optics, they are pretty standard, but hold up well depending on your experience level. This telescope is smaller than other starter models, with an aperture of only 120 mm, though this is compensated for by its apochromatic status. It is less likely to fall victim to chromatic aberration, and the imaging is high contrast and as crisp as can be expected.
There is some confusion regarding how to mount it. By general the look of it, the Pro 120 ED does not come with any standard (or recommended) mount, so unfortunately this will add to the overall cost of your set up. It is often marketed with Skywatcher’s EQ5 equatorial mount, but thankfully there is some room for versatility here. At the end of the day, mounting this telescope may simply be a matter of trial, error, and preference. It would definitely be best to purchase any mount you choose in-stores rather than online. That way, you at least know you are paying for a good fit. All that said, you could choose to set the telescope up for observation only or for astrophotography. This is a great advantage, and the best place to start would be to decide what you want the most out of this telescope.
But what is most important is determining if this instrument is a reasonably priced, compact, and a high quality option to suit your needs if you are interested in refractors.
For seasoned astronomers, the Pro 120 ED is a good “grab-and-go” telescope – a back-up option you could use over your usual bigger or higher-powered model. Set-up is relatively quick and easy, and because the telescope is small and light, it is a great choice to have on nights when you would prefer effortless stargazing over serious, detailed observation.
By the same token, this telescope is recommended for hobbyists who do not need anything too highly sophisticated. It definitely makes for an excellent starter telescope, be it for absolute beginners or for people who may be experienced with reflectors but are looking to step into the world of refractors.
Observation may be limited, but it is excellent. The moon is a highlight through the Pro 120 ED, and you will experience high-contrast, clear viewing. For a telescope of such restricted aperture, it is pleasantly surprising how much you can see through it, and how much detail you will find in your observation.
It also helps that the included Crayford-style focuser is easy to work with and gives the telescope an extra sense of both clarity and stability. Fine-tuning your views of the moon and planets is effortless and leaves very little room to criticize when commenting on the telescope’s performance.
However, this is problematic for serious stargazers. This model will not hold up so well when it comes to viewing deep sky objects, so experienced astronomers who do not have a primary telescope with such capabilities will likely find the Pro 120 ED’s optics lacking.
The other issue, as mentioned, is its mount. There does not seem to be a consensus on which one is best for it, so a lot of research will have to go into your choice, and this opens up a can of confusion – especially if you are inexperienced and would not know what to look for. The safest bet would be to stick to the EQ5 mount, but even this is disputed with some backyard astronomers recommending other models to better support the telescope’s weight or to set it up for astrophotography. It would have been so much better (and easier) if Skywatcher included a mount in the bundle, but of course, doing so would push the price up.
Overall, this telescope could be a hit or a total miss – it is entirely dependent on what you need it for, and whether or not you are feeling up to putting some research into getting the most out of it (like possibly testing it out at a star party). Just do not expect more of it than what it is, and you will likely be pleasantly surprised by its quality and capacity. However, if you are looking for a high-powered, advanced telescope it may not be as sophisticated or as impressive as you hope.
Pros & Cons
- High-contrast views of the moon and planets.
- Fantastic optics considering its limited aperture.
- Light and compact.
- Easy to set up.
- Great selection of accessories, including a handy carry case.
- Excellent quality build.
- Apochromatic, so less likely to succumb to chromatic aberration.
- Suitable for astrophotography.
- Mount not included, and buying one may be a confusing experience.
- Not suitable for deep sky observations.
- Little manufacturer’s instruction/ information available to those who are just getting started.
The Pro 120 ED is a good telescope, but not necessarily to those who realize that there are better options available, and often at a more affordable price. This is not to say that this telescope is not worth the money. Rather, it is only worth it if you know what you are getting yourself into and will not miss out on the features it lacks.
It is recommended to absolute beginners, those who want to test refractors, and hobbyists who have no need for deep sky viewing and will only whip it out on occasion to catch easy peeks at the moon and planets. It is also a great telescope for families who are looking to step into the world of astronomy without necessarily committing to it.
Amateur astronomers will still get a lot out of the Pro 120 ED, but it is important to understand that the telescope itself is limited. It is well-built and has fantastic optics, but there is only so much it can do.
What it lacks in sophistication, though, it makes up for in versatility. It is handy to have if you are starting in astrophotography, if you travel often, or if you have limited space or time for set up. Consider it a telescope to have at hand, rather than one that you primarily rely on for stargazing.