I planned on reviewing Orion’s Multi-use Finder Scope about two months ago, but decided to hold off. I wanted to gain some legitimate experience with this particular finder scope, otherwise, I would be barfing up a list of stats, which you can easily read on Orion’s website. Don’t worry! I’m still going to regurgitate a list of stats, but it will be smothered in a mucous coating of practicality.
** Tale of the Tape **
Orion 70mm Multi-Use Finder Scope
- Optical Design—Refractor
- Optical Diameter—70mm
- Focal Length—279mm
- Focal Ratio—f/3.9
- Coating—Fully coated
- Glass Material—Crown/Flint
- Resolving Power—1.70arcsec
- Lowest Useful Magnification—10x
- Tube Material—Aluminum
- Length of Optical Tube—8.2 in. (20 cm)
- Weight of Optical Tube—1.2 lbs. (544 grams)
To be honest: I was very skeptical about this monster of a finder scope. At first glance, sure, it looks like a no-brainer, right?
… Looks can be deceiving. Have you ever seen a cute hamster and thought to yourself: Gee, wow! I want to take that cute bastard home! And when you fork over your last $1.99, and bring that cute bastard home, the moment you stick your hand in the hamster’s domain, guess what happens? The furry demon latches on your finger! With its jagged incisors.
Orion’s Multi-Use Finder Scope is kind of like that cute hamster.
You browse a cage full of finder scopes, pick the cutest, and fork over $99.99. There’s no doubt—Orion’s Multi-Use Finder Scope—is the cutest of them all.
So, you bring home your new pet, open the box, and that’s when everything changes. That’s when reality laughs in your face. That’s when you open your mouth and say, “Oh…”.
Orion’s Multi-Use Finder Scope has a strange way of focusing, which I’m not impressed with. Have you ever heard of something called a ‘helical focus’? No? Don’t be embarrassed, I don’t know either.
Basically, in order to focus the Multi-use Finder Scope, you need to physically twist the helical ring, which extends the length of the tube. As I hoped you guessed, that means it’s impossible to look through an eyepiece while focusing. Yes, you read that correctly.
With each clockwise rotation, check the focus, rinse and repeat.
In order for the helical focus to work properly, a grease-like-substance must coat the inner barrel, which is constantly exposed to the outside elements. This goo WILL get on your fingers, gear, clothes, anything is fair game. Dirt and unidentifiable grit are naturally attracted to this goo—you have been warned.
As of now, I probably painted a rather poor picture of Orion’s Multi-Use Finder Scope. Stay tuned, I have yet to reach the best part.
Orion’s Multi-Use Finder Scope can only be used with the following:
- 1.25” mirror/prism diagonal
- 1.25” 20mm or lower eyepiece (Perferably Illuminated)
All sold separately, of course! That means you better have some extra parts lying around, or, you will need to break out your wallet, purse, checkbook, whatever the hell it is you use, and buy some hamster food.
Once you have your hamster and food: what can you do with it?
Turns out, your hamster is capable of a variety of neat tricks:
- Finder Scope Capability
- Telescope Capability
- Can Be Used As An Imaging Guider
- Can Be Used As An Astrograph
- Video Camera Accessible
Orion’s Multi-use Finder Scope is limited by your imagination. If you can ponder a specific optical niche, the Multi-use Finder Scope will probably work. I suppose it’s kind of like a Swiss Army knife: bottle opener, screwdriver, pliers, saw, tweezers—all in one package.
As a basic finder scope, the large objective lens is a major plus. Orion’s website states that it is able to collect twice as much light compared to a 50mm finder scope. Is this practical? I don’t know, maybe. A 50mm finder scope can pretty much resolve the same objects as a 70mm finder scope, despite the dimmer image quality.
A standard finder scope is also faster. By that, I mean, you don’t have to worry about a secondary eyepiece or star diagonals. You can plug-in a standard finder scope, quickly align it to your telescope, and your done. Orion’s Multi-Use Finder Scope requires a few more hoops to jump through.
- Star diagonal
As I previously mentioned: you will need to lug around a secondary star diagonal, which takes time and effort to equip onto Orion’s Multi-use Finder Scope. Oh, and you better not lose the tiny screw that secures the star diagonal to the finder scope! Or…you will be screwed.
I happen to own a few spare star diagonals, so I didn’t have to invest in another one. The same applies with the eyepiece. If you had to purchase everything at once, the whole set-up could run you $205-250, depending on the exact gear. If you use premium gear, the cost can be north of $350. You can get a right-angle 50mm finder scope for about $140.00.
Orion’s Multi-use Finder Scope is not a cost-effective tool, especially if you only plan to use it as a finder scope. If you plan on using a tool like this for a variety of tasks, then maybe the price is actually quite cost-effective, considering you would have to normally purchase separate individual pieces of gear.
I must admit: I’m not impressed by the image quality. Bright objects tend to have a very noticeable coma, especially compared to a long focal length telescope. Despite this hindrance, I still happily used this finder scope as a secondary telescope, haphazardly scanning the sky.
I use a 20mm eyepiece (Orion’s Expanse Series) and it seems to be tailored made for this finder scope. High power eyepieces will not properly focus (25mm and up). The lower, the better. My 20mm Expanse is not illuminated, but with a little practice, you don’t necessarily need an illuminated reticle.
Focusing is a pain in the ass.
I’m not a fan of helical focusing, but I understand the need for it…kind of. Was it to cut back on weight? Why not have a knob or a focusing rail? I don’t get it. In cold weather, twisting the helical focus ring will test your might. Trust me.
The helical focus grease attracts dirt, lint, hair, dead bugs, ash, crumbs—it’s like a garbage can: try to keep it clean.
The magical red arrow points toward the helical focus ring. Depending on your exact set-up, you may have to twist the ring quite a bit, especially when used as an astrograph. Keep that in mind.
Go ahead, look closely: do you see that grime along the rim? Told you.
The alignment rings are well-built. No plastic, no fluffy pop, straight up heavy metal, baby! This is a highly admirable design feature, considering plastic is overly used these days. I expect the alignment rings to last forever (unless unnecessarily abused).
The alignment screws are used to align the finder scope…obviously.
Solid construction, not overly complicated, rugged, although susceptible to rust. Many people may not consider rust, but depending on the environment, it should be considered. You don’t want rust to develop on the bolt threads, so keep the hardware dry. If you tend to keep your gear in the car—watch out!
A few months ago, I managed to blastoff a few exposures. My first target was Comet Lovejoy, then M42 (Orion Nebula). These images are unguided, minimally processed, please don’t judge too harshly. Cheap short tube astrographs are not known for pristine image quality, but they work.
Not too bad, considering this is a single frame, unguided image, taken with a short tube astrograph. Comet Lovejoy’s tail is jusssssst visible, a testament to the astrograph’s speedy focal ratio (f/3.9).
That puffy-cloud-thing is M42. Other aliases include: Orion Nebula, Great Orion Nebula, NGC 1976, and probably a few more I can’t remember at the moment. Same drill as before—unguided, minimally processed exposure. DSLR cameras have a natural IR filter, which blocks most of the reddish light emitted from emission space clouds.
I used a Canon Rebel XSi, so I don’t expect much performance. However, the camera wasn’t able to block all of M42’s crimson glow, even though most of the nebula is over exposed. With more effort and sophisticated processing, the images could be better.
Is Orion’s Multi-use Finder Scope a hamster worth feeding? That depends on a few factors:
- Do you need a large aperture finder scope?
- Do you need an astrograph?
- Do you need an image guider?
- Most importantly—do you need all this in one package?
For some people or certain situations, this finder scope is overkill. I don’t recommend a finder scope like this for beginners. Reflex sights and standard finder scopes are less complicated, giving a greenhorn more time to look up, instead of cursing out his/her gear.
Imaging with a DSLR requires special t-thread spacer ring (sold separately). If you plan on using this finder scope as an imaging device, make sure to purchase the appropriate adapter. Or, be lazy, and purchase the entire set. Who knows? You’ll probably need them…some day.
A tool like this is designed for someone who knows how to exploit its potentials.
Are you one of those people? I don’t know. possibly. Maybe. If you feel like you are one of those people, I highly recommend this finder scope.
If you feel intimidated—stay away from Orion’s Multi-use Finder Scope. There are plenty of affordable finder scopes, or you could purchase a decent binocular (if you don’t already own one).
Just like that cute hamster, who bites you from time to time, Orion’s Multi-use Finder Scope works when it works. There’s no denying: when a hamster is cute—it’s pretty damn cute—just like this finder scope.
** True Story ** A few months ago, I forgot to unscrew the imaging adapter from the finder scope. When I woke up in the morning, I discovered the adapter was stuck to the finder scope. I think some of the helical focus goo smeared on the adapter and glued it in place. Don’t let this happen. Trust me. Let’s just say I had to use a knife sheath and pliers to get it off. Yeah. Don’t ask.
**Disclaimer: I’m by all means no expert when it comes to imaging celestial objects. I’m a fellow observer, much like yourself, who is on the journey of learning the science of celestial photon snatching.**
If you have any questions—feel free to leave a thoughtful comment.
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