WideSky 80 refractor review
The WideSky 80 f/6.25 ED refractor is an all-round telescope that works well for visual astronomy and astrophotography.
We are always very happy to see a telescope arrive for review in a solid carry case, and the WideSky 80 f/6.25 ED refractor’s smart, padded suitcase provided us with an excellent first impression when it was unboxed.
Our admiration continued when we looked at the optical tube assembly, which appeared slick, robust and incredibly well made.
We were pleasantly surprised, as the WideSky 80 has the look and feel of a telescope worth twice the price.
With our curiosity piqued by this new brand, we headed out to begin our tests.
Mounting the optical tube assembly wasn’t an issue, although we did feel it would benefit from a slightly longer foot.
For observing, this proved ample, but with a DSLR or astro camera attached we struggled to balance the setup as it was bottom-heavy.
During our time with the WideSky 80, we opted for tube rings and a longer bar when we used it for astrophotography.
Despite some questionable seeing on a damp night, we were curious to see how the WideSky 80 performed as a visual telescope.
Armed with eyepieces, first a 25mm and then a 15mm, we first slewed over to Aldebaran (Alpha (α) Tauri).
We could resolve a beautifully crisp and sharp red star in the centre of the field of view with both eyepieces.
However, as we nudged our target towards the edge of the field, the appearance did distort slightly.
Happily, we saw next to no colour fringing. For a true star test, we headed to the Perseus Double Cluster.
The WideSky 80 rose to the challenge and returned a lovely delicate view, in which we could appreciate different colours from the yellow and blue-tinged stars within.
With an aperture of 80mm, it is fair to say that this refractor is by no means a ‘light bucket’ for galaxies, but we did find our way down to the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, on a crystal-clear night.
Here we could see a definite, bright smudge of light, but no discernible features.
This isn’t really surprising, however, for an 80mm refractor, and it still encouraged us to keep exploring the skies.
We went on to enjoy the Pleiades, M45, and the Bode’s and Cigar Galaxies, M81 and M82, with the WideSky 80 returning a lovely view each time.
All in all, we felt it holds its own as a portable, visual telescope.
Next, it was time to see how the WideSky 80 performed as an astrograph.
After training the telescope on the Flaming Star Nebula, IC 405, it provided the perfect field of view while partnered with our CCD camera.
Setting up an image proved to be quick and easy, as the dual-speed focuser allowed just the right amount of control for pin-sharp stars.
As a result, we were running test exposures in minutes.
We were loaned the optional field flattener, but we started off without it to see how the telescope performed and noted some star curvature on the edge of the frames.
This didn’t really seem much of a problem, however, and it is definitely something that can be controlled in post-processing.
Afterwards, we decided to swap the astro camera for a full-frame DSLR to see how it faired.
Heading over to Markarian’s Chain for an hour, we found that the telescope yielded a wide galactic view of this target and its neighbours.
We did indeed see greater curvature, with further elongated (and slightly out of focus) stars at the edges.
This isn’t unusual when using a full-frame camera, so we thought it was time to pop the field flattener on.
This was easy to attach and it did not require additional spacing when paired with the DSLR and T-ring.
We were very pleased to see an instant improvement in image quality, with our shot of the Bode’s and Cigar Galaxies maintaining sharp stars across the image.
Overall, the WideSky 80 is an impressive telescope with plenty to offer for both new astrophotographers and those a little more seasoned.
In our experience, this refractor not only feels like a more expensive telescope, but in many ways it performs like one too.
Indeed, we couldn’t find fault with the build quality or the ease of use.
While the glass is a little curvy, and we’d have liked a couple more accessories, the WideSky 80 was a pleasure to use.
At no point did we feel it limited our experience, nor did it disappoint with the results it provided.
The WideSky 80 is a truly rewarding scope that punches well above its price.
Using the WideSky 80 for astrophotography
The 80mm glass is an ideal aperture for a first astrograph, as it makes the WideSky 80 well-suited to many nebulae, galaxies and star clusters in the Messier and NGC catalogues.
Not only does it capture enough light to do justice to many popular deep-sky objects, but it also provides an excellent field of view for those dabbling in lunar photography.
Paired with a cropped-sensor DSLR, a full-frame DSLR, or a designated astro camera, the WideSky 80 is well-adapted to a range of different configurations, and it enables new astrophotographers to develop their skills and invest in camera equipment without the need to upgrade the telescope.
The 500mm focal length ensures the WideSky 80 is suitable for portable and remote observing or imaging, and heavier portable Go-To mounts will cope with the weight of its optical tube assembly.
In general, refractors like this tend to cope better than reflectors with transportation.
When it comes to tracking accuracy, the focal length allows newcomers to the hobby some leeway.
For visual use, the multi-coated optics limit chromatic aberration to ensure the WideSky 80 performs well for both visual astronomy and astrophotography.
WideSky 80: 5 best features
Integrated dew shield
The retractable, metal dew shield provides 130mm of protection beyond the primary optics. It also ensures ultra-portability. During some damp, spring nights the shield proved efficient at keeping moisture at bay throughout our imaging and stargazing sessions. A small dew heater wrapped around the shield is all that’s needed for further protection.
Dual-speed rack and pinion focuser
For astrophotography, the ability to fine focus is always an advantage. The dual-speed focuser helps refine star focus and is smooth to use. Meanwhile, the integrated scale allows users to record the optimal focus point for their camera. The WideSky focuser also comes with a large user-friendly tension adjuster.
The Ohara FPL53 glass is designed to limit chromatic aberration (an effect usually seen as unwanted coloured rings around brighter objects) and to optimise viewing and image quality, which is further honed with the ED doublet system. In addition, the multi-coated glass elements help to enhance contrast and image sharpness, while minimising light transmission anomalies such as glares and halos.
Ideal for astrophotography, a 2-inch barrel helps to enhance images as it reduces the effect of vignetting. However, it also has advantages for observational astronomy, as it allows the use of lower magnification and wide field eyepieces to optimise views of galaxies. The supplied 1.25-inch adaptor gives flexibility for the use of different eyepieces and diagonals.
Aluminium carry case
The lightweight, robust carry case that is provided is a big bonus for wandering astronomers, allowing you to store the WideSky 80 refractor dust-free and to travel safely with it between dark-sky locations. As well as protection, the foam-padded interior also offers space to store other accessories, including eyepieces, a field flattener and adaptors.
- Price: £549
- Optics: ED doublet with fully multi-coated Ohara FPL-53 glass
- Aperture: 80mm
- Focal length: 500mm, f/6.25
- Focuser: Heavy duty dual-speed 2-inch rack and pinion hybrid drive with 10/1 (ratio from coarse to fine) and brass compression ring
- Extras: Retractable dew shield, 2- to 1.25-inch adaptor, aluminium case, Vixen-style dovetail-profile mounting foot
- Weight: 2.9kg
- Supplier: The Widescreen Centre
- Tel: 01353 776199
This review originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.